San Francisco: a photographic visit

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by schwitters57

Golden Gate Park in early morning when the fog is everywhere. This park is a unbelievably  beautiful. The landscaping and tree specimens are hand-picked and scrupulously maintained.  It was created in the 1890’s and stretches from the Pacific Ocean into the center of San Francisco.  Visiting the park is a great way to get to know the city.



The Conservatory of Flowers



The Carroussl at the Children’s Playground



Golden Gate Bridge



The dome of City Hall



Interior shot of the dome



The staircase in the main hall



Golden Gate Park spider web



don’t know these flowers







Japanese Tea Garden





Tidal pool abstracts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 31, 2012 by schwitters57

To walk to Queens Bath on the north shore of the island of Kauai, you must cross a huge stretch of tidal pools along the shore.  Each pool is its own little world, very different from the next pool just an inch away.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 by schwitters57

check this out!

Diane Arbus: March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 20, 2012 by schwitters57


When I was eleven or twelve years old, someone gave me a copy of Matthew Brady’s photographs of the civil war.  They were absolutely fascinating–grotesque and riveting all at once.  It seemed quite profound to me that I could look so intently at the dead–and not just those who actually were dead, but all of those men staring back at the camera, making a connection across time with those who looked back.  I read somewhere about aboriginal peoples refusing to allow their pictures to be taken for fear that one’s image was indelibly connected to one’s soul, and one’s soul would be consumed by the camera.  Captured, as it were.  What an absolutely wonderful notion.  And why not?  It could be argued that the most beautiful among us are, in fact captured by cameras, by mirrors, seduced by their own beauty.


The next photographer to catch my attention was Diane Arbus.  Her work is very much straight on photography.  It’s in black and white, although I’m surprised that Ms. Arubs did not work in color, because her subjects were all about color.  Interestingly, she chose to work within a square frame, using a medium format camera.  Composing inside a square is much harder than composing within a rectangle.  It’s simply more forgiving. There is less space to work with, and  composition has got to be exacting for the image to be successful. While Ms. Arbus’ photographs were  presented in such a straight-forward style, the images themselves were anything but ordinary.  Dwarfs, giants, mentally challenged . . . the grotesque was  what she chose to portray.  To see an image of her, a delicately beautiful woman, you have to wonder what had happened in her life to draw her to this sordid fascination.





Norman Mailer was quoted in 1971, the year that Ms. Arbus took her own life,  as saying “Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.”  Had Norman seen this photograph?



The images that spoke directly to me are the children playing on the grounds of an institution:





And especially this picture:


Arbus experienced “depressive episodes” during her life similar to those experienced by her mother, and the episodes may have been worsened by symptoms of hepatitis Arbus wrote in 1968 “I go up and down a lot”, and her ex-husband noted that she had “violent changes of mood.”  On July 26, 1971, while living at  Westbeth Artists Community in New York City,  Arbus took her own life by ingesting barbiturates and slashing her wrists with a razor.  Marvin Israel found her body in the bathtub two days later; she was 48 years old.  (Taken from the Wikipedia Website)

iron work in the shadows

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 18, 2012 by schwitters57

rusting iron work

Duane Michaels: photography as story

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 14, 2012 by schwitters57

Duane Michaels is a professional photographer.  He didn’t set out to become a photographer, it just sort of happened.  He worked for Time Magazine in advertising and promotional work. When an opportunity arrose to travel to Russia, he jumped on it, bringing along a camera: “And I took a camera and if I hadn’t taken the camera, I never would’ve been a photographer.”

The art world knows him because he began to take photographs in sequence.  The idea of shooting sequentially sprung from his notion that a single frame only touched the surface of an event, and Michaels wanted to tell stories:

I found what interested me were things like what happens when you die? I mean, traditional photographers would photograph a corpse or they would photograph people crying in black at the cemetery. That’s what things look like. See, I’m much more interested in what something feels like, so if I see a woman crying, I want to know what’s the nature of her grief? Why is she crying? So I became very frustrated with the limitations of the medium which eventually evolved into my writing with photographs because, again, I was frustrated – so I wasn’t being hip and cool, I’m not – See, I don’t even wear black. I’m never hip and cool. I’m charming.

This series is called Death Comes to the Old Lady.  Each frames moves us a little closer to the old woman sitting in a chair before the viewer.  The woman casts a shadow on the wall behind her, and as the woman’s shadow fades, we see another show in the distance, in the room behind where the woman sits.

In frame 2, a tall man walks into the frame from the back room.  His image is blurred as he walks toward the old woman.

The focus clears as the man comes closer.  He walks to the woman and touches her shoulder. He is all a blur.  The woman never changes her expression.  She stares intently at us.

In the final frame death is gone, and the old woman rises from her chair.  Now she is all blurred motion as she moves toward whatever comes next.

When Michaels shot this series there were no digital cameras.  To achieve these effects, he would have had to rewind the film to shoot over the previous exposure to reveal increments of motion in a ghostly film

I was interested in, again, metaphysical issues like what happens when you die? So I did a little sequence called “The Spirit Leaves the Body.” So you saw this dead – supposedly dead man on a bed and I double exposed him getting up, walking away, so I did the moment before and the moment after. I simply stretched – It’s more like haiku where you just stretch one moment to two moments to three moments to four moments, and it suited me very well because I – Then I could get into all sorts of arcane, esoteric subjects. Photographers only photograph what they can see and yet the most important things in your life are your feelings: grief, passion, if somebody you love walks out on you. You know, you’re miserable. Your life is destroyed.

Photography shouldn’t be just about observation. That really limits it. Why don’t they photograph dreams? I mean, we spend a third of our lives doing – and I’m sure people have more interesting dreams than their – but it’s – they have to enlarge the menu. They’ve got to start thinking outside of the box, not just a little definition of people are what they appear to be in a portrait. They’re not. People are not at all what they appear to be. The big – Look at Pat Robertson. I mean, the biggest scoundrels can look like somebody’s benevolent grandfather, you know, or – So I don’t know. You have to – Every generation should reinvent the medium.

The material quoted here is taken from an interview with Mr Michaels conducted by Maureen Cavanaugh at the Neurosciences institute, sponsored by the San Diego State University Art Council.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 5, 2012 by schwitters57

Here’s Henri Cartier-Bresson waiting for you (the reader) to create his next “decisive moment.”  Normally I talk about collage here.  It is still my favorite form of art, but I love photography, and I think this will be an interesting diversion for this blog.


I’ve been having an on again, off-again conversation with a friend about taking a photo expedition.  It’s the usual where do you want to go? conversation, and from it sprang this realization that Mr. Cartier-Bresson is my favorite photographer.



What he’s come to be known for is what he called the “decisive moment.”  This picture describes that elusive moment only too well.  He peered down to the street and just waited for someone to come by.  The picture of the street scene alone is an engaging study of contrasts, with the curve of the road breaking into a world of squares and rectangles.  The hand-rail along the steps also echos the curving line of the road, but not precisely, only enough to capture our interest, to draw our eyes in.  The bicycle man bursts into the frame and is almost gone before the image is captured.  But it is captured.  The bicycle and it’s rider are slightly blurred, suggesting that the photographer really did leave the image to chance.



But , “Far from relying upon accident, he composes through the finder, invariably using the full negative area.”  –Beaumont Newhall, from The History of Photography.  1982.



This photograph of the two boys with the model planes behind them is a great example of how all the space in the frame is utilized to great effect.  When I first saw this picture, I thought there was an air show happening the background.  Cartier-Bresson has the planes flying right out of the frame which is really dramatic as well as completely unexpected.  It’s what makes the picture so compelling visually.



“Dessau, 1945.  With a sweeping gesture of contempt, a campmate identifies a Gestapo informer who has tried to mingle with other refugees and is on the verge of being released.”   The Best of Life Magazine.  1973.

Every inch of the frame is filled and a story is told from every face in the picture, but the triumph on the face of the accuser contrasted with the hang-dog expression of guilt on the accused woman’s face is the exact moment Cartier-Bresson was waiting for.

One last photograph:



I’m not sure what the title of this photograph is, but the composition is so beautiful . . . a natural triangle is formed by the men and women sitting along the shore that leads your eye to the boat in the background.  You’ll see similar poses throughout classical art.  Here, a woman snaps her fingers, another moves food toward her mouth, a man pours a glass of wine, the picnic is on.  Maybe the people came here in that boat, or maybe they just stopped here for the view.  Either way, a story is told, a scene is set, our imaginations are engaged and art happens.

Robert Rauschenberg

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 27, 2011 by schwitters57

In the wake of the invention of collage by Braque and Picasso, as well as that of Dadaist assemblage, Rauschenberg reinvented these practices, giving them new impact in his Combines. A child of Dada, Rauschenberg was influenced by the assemblages of Kurt Schwitters, whose example led him to suggest that art and life are but one. Nevertheless, as Barbara Rose has pointed out, Rauschenberg’s art drew its inspiration from the America of that era, and the artist was reacting against Abstract Expressionism and its goal of the absolute when he incorporated images from magazines or non-artistic materials into his works. As with any great artist, the influences on his work can be sought far afield; among the painters who have marked him profoundly, the artist cites Leonardo da Vinci and his Annunciation (1475-1478) at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. “Since his painting is life, the tree, the rock, the Virgin are all given the same importance at the same time. There is no hierarchy. This is what interests me.” (Interview with André Parinaud, op.cit.) The same can be said of the Combines, where each element maintains its own integrity without obscuring the others. The present and the past, press photos or reproductions of masterpieces of Western art, drawing and painting, cushions and boxes are incorporated into his works, as they attempt to introduce “totality into the moment.”

As the name suggests, the Combines are hybrid works that associate painting with collage and assemblage of a wide range of objects taken from everyday life. Neither paintings nor sculptures, but both at once, Rauschenberg’s Combines invade the viewers’ space, demanding their attention, like veritable visual puzzles. From stuffed birds to Coca-Cola bottles, from newspaper to press photos, fabric, wallpaper, doors and windows, it is as though the whole universe enters into his combinatorial process to join forces with paint. A friend of John Cage, Rauschenberg also took an interest in sound, and in his later Combines, he developed analogies between music and visual arts. Through his affinity with Merce Cunningam and dance, some of his works became stage décors.

Minutiae ( 1954. Oil, paper, fabric, newspaper, wood, metal, plastic with mirror on wooden structure. ) is one of the first and most important freestanding Combine paintings. Designed for a dance performance for his friend Merce Cunningham, the work is from the outset at the centre of life. It consists of three vertical panels of different sizes, connected to each other.

As in all the Combines paintings, the surface is irregular, covered with newspaper clippings of comic strips, old photos and pieces of posters. Paint covers the entire piece, in the form of drips or colored surfaces. Between the panels is a passage in which a multicolored fabric curtain serves as the element joining the different parts. This fabric, attached to the top of the panels, allows the dancers to pass through. Wood, metal, plastic, and a mirror mingle in this composition dominated by reds, yellows and blues. On the left panel is a curious plant motif, as if thrown there with a few brush strokes and almost intact in its pictorial vivacity, resembling an ancient fresco from Pompeii, which attracts the viewer’s attention, by suddenly introducing an element from another time and place.

All at once a screen, a stage prop and a painting, this Combine painting presents itself as an open structure. Requiring more than a simple glance, this work does not demand the multiplicity of viewpoints, but the “multiplication of gazes”, as Catherine Millet has noted, adding that the Combines incite us to pass freely through the work. (“Le corps morcelé de la sculpture, Robert Rauschenberg” [The divided body of sculpture, Robert Rauschenberg] in Art Press, no. 90, March, 1985.)

(Combine painting
Oil, crayon, pastel, paper, fabric, print reproductions, photographs and cardboard on wood.)

Titles are of much importance to Rauschenberg. “They are all starting points. They are there when I begin my work, either I try to be consciously provocative or funny or macabre… The title is like another object in the work. It’s a deliberately solid and complex thought that obliges you to circle about the pieces, since because of them, you have the impression of never being in the right place.” (Interview of Robert Rauschenberg by Catherine Millet and Myriam Salomon, in Art Press, no. 65, December, 1982).

Therefore, when the artist calls a work Untitled, he gives full force to the absence of a title. There is no prior entry into the subject of the painting that the viewer can grab hold of, no starting point to restrain the imagination. The viewer is left alone to face the sensitive and open experience of the work. “If you talk too much about it, you see nothing. My work is made to be seen,” the artist has declared. The viewer is confronted here with a work that requires an examination, piece by piece, of the different elements that compose it, but without the artist insisting that one element has any meaning with respect to another. For what Rauschenberg wanted to do was to create paintings that “two people cannot see in the same way.” In reference to this, Catherine Millet has subtly emphasized that “Rauschenberg considers art as a means of individuation, opposed to everything in the social, ideological, political… or magical domain, that brings things together.” (Art Press, no. 90, op.cit). He does not seek community of the imagination. His art divides more than it assembles the immense catalogue of images, objects and things that are the world.

In this Combine, the artist juxtaposes images from magazines, photographs, fragments of posters, patterned fabric on which the paint slides. The image of a female nude sitting at an angle across tree trunks contrasts with the horizontal frontality of the building flying the American flag, while at the feet of the young woman a line of turquoise paint leads to a pool of blue.

This information is from the Centre Pompidou’s publication of Robert Rauschenberg Combines (1953-1964) thier exhibit from October 11 2006 through January 15, 2007.

I think a timeline post is needed her. Rauschenberg references so many artists and I’d like to make a post detailing these influences, especially since many of the references are to other collage artists.

Richard Diebenkorn

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by schwitters57

Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park #79, 1975
Oil on canvas
93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with funds contributed by private donors, 1977
©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Image courtesy The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn was a teacher at the California School of Fine Arts. I am including him here on this page about collage, because of Mr. Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park  series, a wonderful collection of work that is abstract in subject, but the abstractions in his work relate to one another on the canvas in shape and color, and in turn, relate to the larger series of work. This is quoted from The Art Story website:

Along with the friends he had made at various teaching positions, including David Park, Diebenkorn became a central member of the Bay Area Figurative Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which rejected Abstract Expressionism in favor of a return to figural representation. Apparently, the freedom of gesture and composition in his Abstract Expressionist period was ultimately not to his liking. Eventually, however, Diebenkorn came to strike a balance between the use of abstract and figural elements in his work. His Ocean Park series, for example, consisting of one hundred and forty paintings made over twenty-five years until his death in 1993, catapulted the mature artist into the national spotlight. These paintings are clearly abstract, but in a much more geometric and planned way than his Abstract Expressionist works of the 1950s. If both his Abstract Expressionist paintings and his Ocean Park series represent aerial landscapes, the former are intuitive and impulsive while the latter are coldly delineated rational spaces. A comparison of the two shows just how far Diebenkorn’s abstract vocabulary had evolved throughout his career.

Here are more paintings from the Ocean Park Series.

# 67

# 129

# 125


Diebenkorn’s work in this series reminds me of flags of one kind or another. The colors are sophisticated and subtle – not anything like real flags that rely on primary colors to convey messages of power and strength. Maybe we’ll look at Robert Rauschenberg next, another abstract artist  who made collages as well.


Day Eight: Richard Hamilton: Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 by schwitters57