Jasper Johns – Black and White
Photographs of Paintings 1955 – 1969, by Rudy Burckhardt and others
April 12 – May 17, 2008.
Coincidently connecting two current New York museum shows – "Jasper Johns: Gray" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and "Rudy Burckhardt" at The Museum of the City of New York – our new exhibition, "Jasper Johns – Black and White" exhibits for the first time vintage black and white photographs of Jasper Johns' work from the 1950s and 1960s.
While clearly made for promotional and reproductive purposes for Johns' early exhibitions at the Castelli Gallery and for museum shows like Johns' 1964 exhibition at The Jewish Museum, these 8 x 10 photographs – beautifully shot, crafted, and printed – are at once a documentary record of the works made at the time of their creation and evocative images in their own right. The skill of the art copyist photographer is not commonly remarked on, but it is interesting that many of the prints we are exhibiting were each stamped by the individual photographer. Given the complexity of lighting a two dimensional work of art so that it is both clearly and cleanly lit as well as retaining the life of the original art work is not a simple task. In these photographs there is a sense of pride in the accomplishment as well as a sense of authorship.
The 8x10 photograph of an artwork is today a virtually extinct species but in the tradition of Sheeler's photographs of his own paintings or Walker Evans' photographs of African art made for the Museum of Modern Art, we understand that the photographs of art can be exquisite objects in their own right. In the era of digital photography and dissemination, the job is now captured in megabytes and seen on monitors and screens. In looking at photographs made for art magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, what at a casual glance might seem like ephemera on closer inspection turns out to be of significant aesthetic and art historical value.
In this particular case, there is the added felicity of the many connections between Jasper Johns' work and photography. To begin with there is the relationship between Johns' interest in gray – or more accurately the range of monochromatic color between black and white. Conceptually, Johns was one of the leaders of a movement that brought art back from abstract expressionism towards a reconsideration of literal representation. In Johns' flags, maps, and targets it could be argued that there is a straightforward literally photographic point of view. As Frank Stella put it: "What you see is what you see."
Of the 30 photographs exhibited, 16 of the 19 that can be credited were taken by Rudy Burckhardt. A highly regarded photographer and film-maker, Burckhardt was particularly associated with the New York art world. In the 1950s and 1960s he worked regularly for Art News shooting portraits, artwork, and much of the regular feature "Paints a Picture" which followed an artist in the studio, documenting the progression of an individual work of art. The other photographers whose work is in this exhibiton are Soichi Sunami, Eric Pollitzer, and Charles Uht.
For more information please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212 629 6778.