All posts tagged “retrospective

The search of indecisive moment. A sort retrospective on Robert Frank’s work

Robert Frank(1924) nowadays is more relevant than ever. Through out his book The Americans, he praised the diversity in human nature and provided the counterweight to the constant swagger of racial discrimination in the postwar America .

He was born in 1924 in Switzerland.  His father lost his citizenship and became stateless because he was Jewish during the rise of Nazis in Germany. Thus, he and his family were forced  to take refuge in Switzerland. Although Robert Frank grew up in Zurich’s safety, the atrocities of war made him understand the meaning of oppression.

robert-frank-funeral-st-helena-south-carolina-1955

©Robert Frank – Funeral – St. Helena, South Carolina

 

He turned to photography to escape family oriented business while in 1947, he moved to New York, where Alexey Brodovich hired him immediately in Harper’s Bazaar. In New York he also met Edward Steichen and he participated in the group show 51 American Photographers at MoMa.

Frank started his journey in the United States as an optimistic young man admiring the culture and society of the new world but soon he realised and confronted the pace of American life and what he considered to be a money-driven society. On top, he was dissatisfied on the fact that the editors had control over his work.

robert-frank-miami-beach-1955

Robert Frank – Miami Beach 1955

 

In 1955 after a trip to Paris he secured his first Guggenheim fellowship and embarked on a two-year trip around the US, during which he took 28,000 photos, out of which he finally chose only 83 in order to include on the pages of The Americans. During his US road-trip he ALSO became a subject of anti-Semitism in a small town of Arkansas, where he was thrown in jail for three days.

 

robert-frank-candy-store-new-york

©Robert Frank – Candy store – New York

 

Frank’s photos have a feeling of affinity to the Beat subculture: they seem to portray Beat Generation’s interest in documenting the tension between post-war optimism and the harsh reality of class inequality and racial prejudice.

robert-frank-charleston-south-carolina

©Robert Frank – Charleston – South Carolina

 

His photographs describe the ordinary man as an entity, they highlight and celebrate multi-diversity. They show us the human being with a disarming honesty, oppressed by social conventions, vulnerable before death, without any exaggeration, thus emphasising the greatness of man’s simplicity and his ability to ultimately survive harsh reality. Essentially, his book The Americans created a complicated portrait of the human nature and presented it in all its glory with an unusual way and that alone was a punch in the stomach for the conservative America that was not yet ready to accept such a work of art.

 

robert-frank-new-york

©Robert Frank – New York

 

That is why The Americans firstly got published in Paris by Robert Delpire in 1958 and next year in the US without any texts. Popular Photography described the book as “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness” while also the book was considered as too un-American.

 

robart-frank-mens-room-railway-station-memphis-tennesee

©Robert Frank – Men’s room, railway station – Memphis, Tennessee

 

When he met Jack Kerouac on the sidewalk outside a party and showed him the photographs from his travels, Kerouac immediately told Frank “Sure I can write something about these pictures,” and he contributed to a state-of-the-art introduction of the U.S. edition of the book.

 

 

robert-frank-santa-fe-new-mexico

©Robert Frank – Santa Fe – New Mexico

 

Robert Frank dis-valued the elitism that exuded from Bresson’s Decisive Moment and praised the everyday moment. This was Frank’s huge success and from another point of view it was and still is, an inspiration for dozens of new photographers who want to go out there and express themselves in different forms than the usual.

 

robert-frank-political-rally-chicago

©Robert Frank – Political Rally – Chicago

 

After The Americans, Frank started working on films and made exceptional arthouse films like “Pull my Daisy” as well as the most controversial Rolling Stones documentary that was ever released,  which can be screened only with Frank’s presence and four times in a year.

Nov 2016

B. Giannikakis

 

 

You can watch here the Gerald Fox’s strongly recommended documentary on Robert Frank:

 

Gallery

 

 

The enlighted loneliness of humanity in Edward Hopper’s paintings. Sort retrospective and opinion on Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper by Berenice Abbott 2(1948)

Edward Hopper by Berenice Abbott (1948)

 

Edward Hopper(1882 – 1967) was one of the most unique realist painters of the 20th century. Even though he travelled to Europe and especially Paris three times between 1906 to 1910, he stayed unaffected by the art scene and the new currents. When he was asked about Picasso he said “Didn’t remember having heard of Picasso at all”.

He defined himself as “an amalgam of many races not a member of any school” and he had a unique way of depicting crystal clear white light in his paintings. Light in Hopper’s paintings is not another medium to highlight a situation, on the contrary, light is the situation and has an entity that can express emotion, exactly in the same way a human face can express emotion.

 

Seventh Avenue shops(1930)

Seventh Avenue shops(1930)

 

For Edward Hopper however it was always technical. He was asked several times about his viewpoint and he always said  that there wasn’t a spiritual meaning behind his paintings.  For example, he approached a more surreal dimension in  “The room by the sea”(1951) which however depicts only a study of how the light reacts to the specific environment.

 

Room by the sea(1951)

Room by the sea(1951)

 

Edward Hopper was raised by a conservative middle-class family, in the north of New York city. During his childhood, his parents provided him with everything he needed so that he could evolve his natural painting skill.

By the time he was a teenager, he could already use pen-and-ink, charcoal, watercolour, and oil. After his high school graduation, he declared his intention to follow an art career and soon after he started studying at the New York School of Art and Design(1900 – 1906), the forerunner of Parsons new school for design.

 

Solitary Figure in theater(1903)

Solitary Figure in theater(1903)

 

Unlike many of his contemporaries who imitated the abstract cubist experiments, Hopper was attracted to realist art. In 1905, Hopper landed a part-time job with an advertising agency, where he created cover designs for trade magazine. As a result of this job, Hopper came to detest illustration but he was bound to it by economic necessity until the mid-1920s.

He temporarily escaped by making three trips to Europe, mostly in Paris, in order to study the emerging art scene there. After Paris, he returned to New York, reluctantly, to working at illustration projects. In 1913, he sold his first painting but recognition and financial stability didn’t come until 1923 when he could actually stop illustrations and start creating paintings and sell them.

 

sunday1926

Sunday(1926)

 

Hopper had his ups and his downs in his career. For very long periods of time,  he was struggling to paint. He once stated “It is hard for me to decide what I want to paint, I go for months without finding, sometimes it comes slowly” and these “dry periods” happened quite often. Especially during the late 40’s, during a period where Hopper also had health problems.

 

Corn Hill(1930)

Corn Hill(1930)

 

Hopper’s paintings highlight the seemingly mundane in our everyday life and gives it a cause for epiphany. Human figures in his paintings are often psychologically exposed, they feel regret, loneliness, boredom and resignation. They never look at each other, they never look straight in the viewer’s eyes, they are lost in their solitude, in their thoughts, they don’t want social interaction.  Since Edward Hopper lived in the era of transition to modern lifestyle, he depicted perfectly the impacts of this to the western man with social alienation being a major subject in his paintings.

 

Office at night(1940)

Office at night(1940)

 

We can observe for example that every individual of “The office at night”(1940) is distant, lonely, unhappy, lost in thoughts and no matter how close they are physically, they are totally distant mentally. Even the glimpse of eroticism that can be noticed, is starting to fade under the walls of the cold-lighted office.

 

Morning sun(1952)

Morning sun(1952)

 

Human beings on Edward Hopper’s paintings are surrounded by the urbanscape, they desperately trying to find their meaning outside of open windows, observing the line of the horizon or they wait pathetically for their destiny to happen during their sinking to boredom.

Hopper is perfectly matching the subject to the viewer and this is his success. He is talking the simplest language possible and he reaches us from the past, from an era without internet, with fewer things to distract a man’s mind,about the dark side of the westernised modern lifestyle.

 

Excursion into Philosophy (1959)

Excursion into Philosophy (1959)

 

Edward Hopper had a characteristic that only great artists can achieve. his paintings envisioned the role of man in modern societies: through his work, he foresees the future and the expansion of the alienation during the next decades following his death. He is exposing his subjects by removing any form of social conventions and he is revealing to us how people are, without all this stuff that distract us from whichever the meaning of life is for everyone.

 

Cape Cod Morning(1950)

Cape Cod Morning(1950)

Bibliography 

Gallery