Sculptor Duane Hanson (1925 – 1996) often identified the figures in his artworks by their occupation or social roles, rather than their names. His photorealistic sculptural portraits — cast from life, painted and dressed in clothes corresponding to their roles — are thus transformed into ethnographic types. Their positions subtly critique their social realities as well as the context of their display. Hanson’s typically lower-and-middle class characters are empathetically portrayed in private or mundane moments, and their appearance is at once startlingly present, yet distinctly at odds in a gallery setting, where they are encountered almost voyeuristically, thus amplifying their isolation.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Like Life: Sculpture, Color and The Body, at The Met Breuer, NYC.
After suffering a stroke in 2002 that left his right arm partially paralyzed, Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was no longer able to take photographs, nor was he able to transfer and arrange them into new compositions, as he had been doing since the early 1950s. As Triathlon (Scenario) (2005) shows, these obstacles did not prevent him from making art. Relying on the sorts of collaborative processes that had fueled his work for decades, Rauschenberg invited his friends to take photographs with digital cameras that he provided. He then selected from the images they produced and instructed one of his studio assistants at the time, Kevin Pottorf , in the transfer and arrangments of these imgaes onto two panels
In the late 1980s, David Hockney bought a house on the beach in Malibu, California and proceeded to paint interiors that showcased the incredible view of the sea from his picture window. “When you live this close to the sea,” he said, “when it literally comes up and splashes the windows, it is not the horizon line which dominates, but the close movement of the water itself. It’s like fire and smoke, endlessly changing, endlessly fascinating.” In Breakfast at Malibu, Sunday (1989) the Pacific Ocean is almost opalescent and seems to blend in with the horizon near the top edge of the canvas.
Part of a Private Collection, This Painting was Photographed While On Loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
The diminutive nude female figure in the upper right area of The Nymph Echo (1936) is often identified as Echo — a mountain nymph of Greek Mythology. Far more dominant, however, is the monstrous green vegetal creatures — or is it creatures — in the foreground. This wildly imaginative hydra-headed creation may represent Narcissus, whom Echo loved. Famously, Narcissus fell in love with his own beautiful image reflected in a pool and wasted away from unsatisfied desire, whereupon he was transformed into a flower. The various delicately colored floral effusions in Ernst’s painting recall this moment of metamorphosis.
This Untitled Abstract Painting (circa 1963 or 64) is one of the last paintings made by Eva Hesse before she switched to sculpture. Its deconstructed symbols, figures, and shapes evoke natural forms and bodies without ever being directly identifiable. Delicate brushwork, soft colors and a light, witty touch lend this work a feminine quality that she intended as a rebuke to the masculinity of Minimalist Art. Hess was reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex at this time, and the text led her to question her own fragmented status as artist, woman and wife. Her work, though not overtly political, explores these issues in poetic, expressive abstractions.
A powerful rendering by the artist in her twenties, this picture was made with a practical purpose; it was painted as a reception piece for admission to the life-drawing course at the National Academy of Design. While Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984) is best known for the personal style that she developed within the movement of Abstract Expressionism in the 19540s, this self portrait (c. 1930) is a rare example of her early work, using the thick brushwork and high color of the Impressionists and Realists of the previous generation. Strikingly, Krasner depicts herself at work in nature. She eyes the viewer, who stands on the spot where, presumably, a mirror hangs on a tree. Her expression and strong handling of light and shade evoke the resolve of a young woman rising to the challenge of her artistic vocation.
In Aïda Muluneh’s photograph All In One (2016), a single figure embodies multiplicity through the addition of extra hands of different hues. Muluneh’s use of colorful makeup is inspired by body art from across Africa and allows her to physically construct a character out of her model. After living around the world, Muluneh (b. 1974) returned to her homeland of Ethiopia, where she founded the Addis Foto Fest, the first international festival in Africa. Though she was born in Ethiopia, she has sometimes felt like a outsider due to many years spent elsewhere. Her photographs, such as this one, bear the influence of that complicated experience, and are drawn from her series The World is 9, which is named after a saying of her Grandmother’s: “The World is nine; it is never complete and it’s never perfect.” With this series, the artist also recognizes the capacity of photography to convey the multiplicity inherent in any individual.
Photographed as part of the Exhibit Being: New Photography, Up Through August 19th, 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.