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Friday, 24 September 2010

Beyond COLOR: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970

Beyond COLOR: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970, opened last week in New York. This show re-examines of a crucial moment in photography’s short history, when the artistic relevance of colour in fine art photography had yet to be determined. Uniting works for the first time by many of the “first generation” practitioners of colour photography including: Marie Cosindas, Arthur Seigel, Harry Callahan, Eliot Porter, Saul Leiter, Marvin E. Newman, Pete Turner, Ruth Orkin and Ernst Haas. Other highlights include images exhibited for the first time by Magnum’s first female member, Inge Morath (1923 - 2002), as well as special slide projection of colour images by Garry Winogrand, images that were never printed by the artist.

The show is attempting to reclaim a precise moment in photographic history that has only started to attract critical attention. Let’s think about this in more detail. After the conclusion of World War II, innovations in technology combined with the public’s desire to “see the world as it is” resulted in an explosion in the usage of colour imagery by the mass media. By 1951, commercial colour television broadcasting had begun, and in 1954, half of all American films were made in colour. Today in our ultra-visual world, it seems hard to imagine all images in black & white. It sort of makes me think of the film Pleasantville (1998), when the world was seen in black & white, and slowly as people changed, reflecting how the society was changing (for the better or worse) the world started to appear in colour. This show prompts the question what was the real impact on colour imagery in our culture?

In the early 1960s colour imagery was so prevalent that National Geographic magazine introduced a new era when it became the first major American publication to print an all-colour issue. While colour photography during this period was widely embraced by mass culture advertising and journalism-- it continued to receive fewer acknowledgements in the fine art world when compared with images in black & white. For most in the fine art establishment, black & white photography represented the medium of choice, steeped in a century-old tradition it was easily accessible and affordable to artists, and possessed known archival stability. For this reason, few artists chose to work in colour and even fewer produced finished prints. Although color works had begun to selectively appear in museum exhibitions, most notably at the Museum of Modern Art, where single artist exhibitions of works by Eliot Porter (1943), Ernst Haas (1962) and Marie Cosindas (1966) were displayed, academic and institutional attention and support for this new technology was scant.

Over the past 40 years, work in colour created by artists during this formative period has received little attention. Most critical analysis through writings and exhibitions have focused on colour work created during the 1970s and 1980s after the now famous Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Photographs by William Eggleston (1976), curated by John Szarkowski. This MoMA exhibition set the groundwork for defining a new purpose for colour photography – one that focused more on the conceptual implications of the photograph and its creation, and away from the formalistic attributes of the image as well as the attention to colour itself. The effects of Eggleston’s exhibition and Szarkowski’s essay reverberate to this day. With a certain distance from this era when colour photography was new-- its place in the art world no longer a question--this exhibition offers a crucial consideration of works created during this period and encourages a new perspective on the significance of these artists’ contributions to the history of photography.

Beyond COLOR: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970 continues until 23 October at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, 535 West 24th Street, New York, New York.

(c)Inge Morath / Magnum Photos, Hollywood, California (1959), Archival pigment print. 13 X 17 1/2 inches

Monday, 20 September 2010

It’s Festival Time: First up Branchage International Film Festival

It’s getting to that time of year when the art world is bursting at the seams. With all the fairs coming up in the next few weeks, as well as digital art, media and film festivals, this is one season where you can’t ever say those three horrid words –“I am bored.”

Having opened last week, the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, has been a huge success, and with countless festivals opening in late September and early October: Branchage (23 – 26 September), Raindance (29 September - 10 October) and the Abandon Normal Devices Festival (1 -7 October), you might find yourself darting between Jersey, London and Manchester.

This year sees the 3rd Branchage International Festival opening on Thursday with film screenings, live music events and parties in an array of weird and wonderful locations. Making use of Jersey’s many unusual indoor and outdoor settings such as the 13th Century Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey War Tunnels, several churches, the grandiose Jersey Opera House and the festival’s hub, the Barclays Wealth Spiegeltent - a century old structure crafted from wood, canvas and mirrors, Branchage really is unlike any film festival you’ve ever attended.

Kicking off the festival on Thursday (23rd September) is Stephen Frears’ brilliant new comedy Tamara Drewe, starring Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper opening the festival on 23 September in the grandiose Jersey Opera House. The Closing night gala screening 26 September, also at the Opera House, is Out of the Ashes, a documentary following the rise of the Afghan cricket team, partly shot in Jersey. Topped by a richly diverse programme of features, documentaries, animations and short films the line up this year, some of the highlights of this year’s confirmed programme so far include:

Commissioned especially for Branchage festival, Euros Childs and Richard James (ex- Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) perform a live score to the Russian fairytale animations of Yuri Norstein in a church / Japanese psychedelic metal quartet Bo Ningen perform to Tatsuo Sato’s 2001 anime Cat Soup / French krautrock duo Zombie Zombie perform to Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin on a tugboat in St Helier’s harbour / electronica artiste Scanner performs a live set to a Victorian magic lantern show consisting of scenes of old Jersey / London based French singer-songwriter Pevin Kinel, formerly of Velofax, performs to Our Daily Bread in the Classic Herd Barn / Plus a huge 3D visual show themed around The Dambusters at Val de la Mare Dam, designed by Seeper Arts, the people behind the groundbreaking 2009 'Battle of Branchage’ at Mont Orgeuil Castle.

Some unusual screening locations include Lourdes in the Town Church, Went the Day Well? and Greetings From the Woods in the Classic Herd Barn, The Vanishing of the Bees in a polytunnel and Horses in a converted horse box. Other confirmed films include Seperado! featuring a Q&A with Super Furry Animals’ front man Gruff Rhys / Fly-on-the-wall documentary Out On His Own followed by a Q&A with Jersey based Gilbert O’Sullivan / Acclaimed documentary When You’re Strange featuring live musical tributes to The Doors / Shed Your Tears and Walk Away, plus Q&A / Cowboys in India plus Q&A. The film explores the British mining industry in India / American: The Bill Hicks Story and biopic Gainsbourg, British supernatural comedy Skeletons, cult French puppetoon A Town Called Panic, Jean—Luc Godard’s newly-restored feature Breathless and London River, starring Brenda Blethyn, plus over 100 short films and more to be announced.

Ian Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, The Make Up, Weird War) reads from his Tales of the Psychic Soviet / Cutting Hedge Humour: An Afternoon of Comedy featuring London Comedy Awards finalist Jeff Leach (Big Brother’s Little Brother), cabaret-rapper The Midnight Expresso and Comedy Rocks’ Wayne Stewart, plus more guests to be announced / Yarnfest presents Four Stories High Storytelling. A classic tale is recreated in four different mediums: film, theatre, literature and music at a yet-to-be-announced location./ The Fabulous Flutterby’s puppet show for kids described as “**** a creepy crawly delight” by Time Out / New Jersey radio station WFMU return to the island for a live broadcast from the Barclays Wealth Spiegeltent.

With an education programme also included, this year’s Branchage Film Festival is set to be the best one to date.

Special festival passes on sale now: £59 throughout August, £69 in September and £79 walk-up during the festival. A bargain for 4 days of 60+ events and films! Available from Seetickets.com, and selected outlets in London (Close-Up Videos), Brighton (Resident Records), Southampton (Harbour Lights Picture House), Portsmouth (Sweet Memories Record Store), Guernsey (Guernsey Information Centre, iQ Apple Store) and Jersey (Jersey Tourism Information Centre, Freedom Surf Shop and iQ Apple Store)

For further programme details and information visit www.branchagefestival.com

If you do attend, drop us a line when you get back, and we’ll publish the best review online.

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