Posts Tagged ‘Women in Focus’

‘Women in Focus’ is the name of a photography exhibit on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) at the moment.  I want to talk about that exhibit in this blog post but I also want to expand the post to include a few other women at the AGO that caught my eye the other day when I was there.

below: A woman’s portrait by Modigliani and a sculpture of a female form in the room beyond. The latter is “The Leaf”, 1948, by Germaine Richier.  She’s a forlorn figure, standing naked and all alone.

a painting of a woman's head by Modigliano on a gallery wall in a fancy gold frame and a sculpture of a woman in the room beyond

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The ‘Women in Focus, 1920s – 1940s,’ exhibit is fascinating. The history, not only of photography but also of the subject matter, is wonderful. The world was changing. Photography was there to be a part of that change as well as document it. Cameras and processing techniques advanced. Magazines flourished. The way that we looked at the world and at ourselves evolved. Photography became an artform.

below: ‘Hanja Holm with dance group, New York’, around 1938, by Lotte Jacobi. Gelatin Silver print. The photo is actually sepia toned and not as ‘black and white’ as shown here. Hanja/Hanya Holm (1893-1992) was the stage name of a German born choreographer and dancer; she was Johanna Kuntze (nee Eckert) but considered her name “too heavy” for a dancer. She is also considered one of the founders of American modern dance.

photograph from 1938 by Lotte Jacobi, of women dancing, light and shadows on the back wall

below: ‘St. Moritz, Frau Wernod-Gtoffel with a modern film camera’, 1932, by Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995). Eisenstaedt began his career in 1929 with the Associated Press in Germany. Because of the war he emigrated to the USA in 1935 where he became a photographer for ‘Life’ magazine. I love the old camera… and what’s that in her mouth?

old sepia tone photo of a person with an old fashioned movie camera

below: ‘Bewegungsstudie’ (‘Movement Study’) 1926 by Rudolph Koppitz (Austrian, 1884-1936), bromoil print. Koppitz was a leading avant-garde photographer of his time. Bromoil prints are slightly fuzzier than other photographs as the image is produced with an oil based paint.

vintage sepia toned photo of four women moving together, 3 are dressed in long plain dresses and they are close together and supporting a naked woman who has her back arched while she walks (with her head looking backwards)

below: ‘Sea of Ice (Genevieve)’, 1935, by Ilse Bing (1899-1998). Bing was born in Frankfurt Germany. She spent the early part of her career in Paris before moving to the USA in 1941. The exhibit at the AGO includes more of her work (and it’s all good).

anold photo by Ilse Bing of a woman standing on a rock high upon a mountian. She's looking down over the valley below

below: “Good Night Marie’, 1932, by Herbert Bayer (1900-1985). It looks very contrived, doesn’t it? The study of the nude as a photographic skill – getting the skin tones right and all that. Or is it just soft porn?

old photo of a man's hand on a door handle as he opens the door to expose the backside of a nude woman

below: On the left is ‘Colette’, 1939, by Giselle Freund (1908-2000). Colette (1873-1954) was a French author and in this picture she is writing in bed. Her best known book was ‘Gigi’. She was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. The other picture is a portrait of Virginia Woolf, also a writer, by Man Ray (1890-1976).

framed photographs on a gallery wall

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Vija Celmins was born in Latvia just before the Soviets invaded during WW2.  She emigrated to the USA and settled first in California and then in New York City.  ‘To Fix the Image in Memory‘ is a retrospective of her work at the AGO (until 5th August).  Most of her work is in very muted tones if not shades of grey.

a man in an art gallery is looking closely at a pencil drawing that is hanging on the wall

below:   Five of a series of drawings (there are 6 in the series) of water done in graphite (i.e. pencil).  One is the original and five are copies of it.  These photos are small but I think that you can see that they are of the same waves.   A lot of her work was intense – detailed drawings of water and the desert floor.  She also did a series of drawings and paintings of stars in the sky.

five similar drawings of water

below: A spider web painted in oils on linen. Celmins experimented with pictures of spider webs done in different media on different surfaces.  This was my favorite – muted and slightly blurry.

a painting of a spider web in shades of grey

below: I’ve cheated a bit here…. this is a screenshot of the top part of the results of a google image search on Celmins’ name.  It gives you a much better sense of her work that I can convey.

screenshot of images of artwork by Vija Celmins

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As I was walking towards the exit of the AGO I was still thinking about how women are portrayed in art. I found myself in the ‘religious art’ section of the gallery, from a time in history when the church was a major patron of the arts in Western culture. Apparently, it wasn’t a good time for women. There are plenty of Mary’s either in her virgin mother role or seen weeping at the foot of the cross, but there is a dearth of other women. Ponder that for a while but try not to get too depressed. And while you ponder, here is a photo of a small white statue bathed in light coming through a stained glass window. Mary’s watching over you.

a small white statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus, lit by light coming through a stained glass window behind it