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leading grid morgan coonce // fall 2017 // hertowski // visc 202


1 contemporary performance artist

Vanessa Beecroft Vanessa Beecroft, born April 25, 1969. Straight after Vanessa was born, the Beecrofts moved to Holland Park, west London. When she was three, her parents separated (Beecroft would not see her father again until she was 15) and her younger brother (currently training to be a judge in Italy) was sent to live with Maria Luisa’s parents in Genoa. She is an Italian contemporary performance artist. She works in the United States and is a contemporary artist whose performances, photographs, and paintings have attracted critical acclaim as well as controversial criticism. Many of her works have made use of professional models, sometimes in large numbers and sometimes naked or nearly so, to stage tableaux vivants. Beecroft’s work often features female models as living art objects that exist somewhere between figure and object, static and dynamic. Much of Beecroft’s work is informed by her personal struggle with an eating disorder and she consistently explores issues of body image and femininity in contemporary culture. Beecroft suffers from what psychiatrists call ‘exercise bulimia’, a compulsive need to burn off unwanted calories using excessive exercise. Her problems with food started with puberty. When she was 12, she started to become a woman and her body began to change. She was devastated because she couldn’t be a boy any more. She lost her boyish look. When she started to become something else, she didn’t know how to keep it together. It was really painful for her - the more you eat, the more like a woman you become. That’s when her obsession with food started. She felt very alone, but now she sees that every woman in her family has an eating disorder.’ At 14, she went to art school in Genoa. In her spare time, she read Vogue (her mother wouldn’t let her read it at home), visited galleries across Italy with her mother and spent weekends with her best friends - three aristocratic, anorexic sisters. For Beecroft, swimming was, until recently, an intoxicating drug. When she was pregnant with with her son, Dean, she insisted - despite the protests of her husband and his mother, a registered dietician - on swimming 100 laps a day to ensure her weight gain was kept to the minimum. Today, she no longer swims, instead practicing ashtanga yoga (‘power yoga’) seven days a week. Without it, she says she would ‘go crazy’. In her teens, she tried unsuccessfully to vomit food she wished she hadn’t eaten - all that saved her from rampant bulimia was her body’s refusal to play ball. The spectre of anorexia haunted her teens and twenties, too, when she smoked to keep her weight down, attempted crash-dieting with amphetamines, undertook damaging fasts, exercised beyond any sensible limits of endurance, and kept a diary - The Book of Food - detailing every single morsel that passed her lips between 1983 and 1993. The anxiety of having eaten something and having it inside and not knowing how big and how much... she thought, “I’m going to write it down and look at it and see if it’s really so much. And one day, I might give it to a doctor so they will analyse if it’s OK.” But then it became an obsession and she wrote down everything she ate. She would go all day thinking, “I ate an apple at 12 o’clock, I must write it down, I mustn’t forget.”’ Even now, a decade after she stopped keeping the food diary, there are still days when she longs to note what she eats, such was the power of this coping mechanism. Beecroft announced herself boldly to the art world in 1993, when she showed The Book of Food. After a professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera Scenografia in Milan, where she studied from 1988 to 1993, invited her to participate in a group show at the city’s Inga-Pin gallery, she adapted what remained of The Book of Food (the first four years of entries were lost by a friend hired to type them up) into a white cube-shaped book. The book, placed in the centre of an empty gallery, was supplemented by a ‘live sculpture’ or ‘live painting’ of 30 girls, consisting of fellow Brera students or girls found on the streets of Milan, who were instructed to move around the space, aloof, numb, dressed in Beecroft’s own clothes - mostly red or yellow (two of Beecroft’s favorite colors). Many of the girls, chosen for their uncanny resemblance to Beecroft, were themselves struggling with eating disorders. On the walls, drawings and watercolors of girls wrestling with eating disorders, primitive brightly colored stick figures (sometimes just an arm or a torso or hair or a leg) reminiscent of sketches by Tracey Emin (all chronologically titled VBDW01, VBDW02, VBDW03, the acronym standing for ‘Vanessa Beecroft Drawings and Watercolors’). This first ‘performance’ set the blueprint for Beecroft’s future as a conceptual artist. Since then, she has staged a further 53 performances around the world (all titled VB01, VB02, VB25, VB45, etc), each more elaborate than its predecessor. Earlier performances tended to feature a handful of girls wearing high heels (Beecroft calls heels ‘pedestals’), cheap costumes and wardrobe, allusions to European cinema (films by Fassbinder, Godard, Visconti) and classical painting (Rembrandt, Holbein, della Francesca), and red, yellow or platinum wigs. As budgets grew in proportion to her


reputation, she started using professional models, strikingly presented by makeup artists such as Pat McGrath, and wearing clothes and accessories loaned or specially created by fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana, and Manolo Blahnik, all eager to associate themselves with Beecroft’s complex vision (even if Beecroft’s assistant tells me ‘The fashion in Vanessa’s work is a red herring’ and Beecroft herself says, ‘I don’t follow fashion’) Many of these mutually beneficial artist/designer collaborations (Beecroft gets kudos from the fashion press, the designers get intellectual cachet from the art press) are brokered by Beecroft’s long-term friend/mentor Franca Sozzani, the influential editor of Vogue Italia, who sees a very clear role for fashion in Beecroft’s work. ‘Fashion is important in her performances because she subdues it to her will,’ Sozzani tells me. ‘It’s not important as a logo, trend or status symbol: fashion items are used to underline the woman’s body and to express the concept behind her performances.’ The ‘girls’ (Beecroft’s term for the models) have also become increasingly stripped, to the extent where most performances since VB23 have featured partial or full nudity. These beautiful and disturbing tableaux vivants, which are always staged twice (once for the public, once for photographing and filming: Beecroft’s network of dealers trade in limited-edition photographs and DVD/video films of each performance) have confounded critics eager for easy categorization, been pronounced ‘dope’ by celebrity fans such as Leonardo DiCaprio, been slated as vapid art/fashion fusion catwalk shows, and enraged older generations of feminists while thrilling the younger. In the event titled They Come, Beecroft attempted to recreate the work Naked and Dressed, 1981 by Helmut Newton, the renowned fashion photographer. Beecroft observes of Newton’s nudes, “I like the way he portrays women, which is not the same way I do. His big nudes deal with sex, power, politics, Germany. They are smart-asses. They have control. Mine are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. More like self- portraits.” As Maria Elena Buszek, an art historian at the Kansas City Art Institute, explains: ‘Beecroft is the veritable poster-girl for our current, third wave of feminist art history. There’s an ambivalence in her work that is present in the work of many of her contemporaries, which is the result of a culture that has both internalized feminist goals more than any generation that preceded it, and chafes against what it perceives as feminism’s restraints.’ Beecroft’s highly choreographed performance works examine what constitutes the perfect body, as well as the role of context in determining the intricate relationship between viewer and viewed. In her 2011 performance VB67, for example, nude female models were assembled among marble and plaster sculptures, subverting the traditional art viewing experience while emphasizing both the affinities and the stark differences between the living women and the sculptures. She refers to nudity as the “urban uniform.” Beecroft studied at the Civico Liceo Artistico Nicolo’ Barabino (from 1983 to 1987) and the Accademia Ligustica Di Belle Arti (from 1987 to 1988) in Genoa and the Accademia Di Belle Arti Di Brera (from 1988 to 1993) in Milan. Titling her performances sequentially with her initials, her first performance VB01 took place in Milan in 1993. Featured at the center of the exhibition was her own “food diary,” the Book of Food, surrounded by near-motionless female nude models. This presentation became the original archetype for her performances and the exploration of narcissism, voyeurism, politics, eating disorders, the female form, and the female gaze. After arranging her models into a tableau vivant, most of which echo figural arrangements seen in classical Western Art, Beecroft then documented the performance through photography and film. Since VB01, Beecroft has staged over 60 performances at numerous institutions that include the Guggenheim Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1 in New York, NY, the Venice Biennial and Galleria d’Arte Moderna, in Bologna, Italy, as well as the Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. She has collaborated with prominent fashion designers, such as Miuccia Prada and Tom Ford, and most recently with the singer Kanye West. Her latest performance, VB70, took place in 2011 at the Lia Rumma Galleries in Milan and Naples, with sculptures from the project, titled VBMARMI, appearing at the Venice Biennial. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft’s work. Some see the fashion element as superficial, some see the naked Helmut Newton-esque images of these women as little more than ‘hooters for intellectuals’ (as one review famously dubbed her work). Some say she’s demeaning women, parading them like hunks of meat, in the process creating a male wet dream, while others say she’s reclaiming sexualized images of women from the pages of Penthouse and recontextualising them as symbols of feminist empowerment.

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who is vanessa beecroft? 1. INTELLIGENT 2. TALENTED 3. CREATIVE 4. artistic 5. quirky 6. rebellious 7. NUDE 8. OBSESSIVE 9. HEADSTRONG 10. PROGRESSIVE 11. adventurous 12. ambitious 13. provocative 14. captivating 15. hard-working 16. independent 17. iMPASSIONED 18. clever 19. Complex 20. confident 21. smart 22. intoxicating 23. cultured 24. unconventional 25. vunerable 26. sensual 27. devoted 28. broken 29. self-driven 30. knowledgeable 31. vulgar 32. mysterious 33. poetic 34. graceful 35. powerful 36. supple 37. dedicated 38. sensitive 39. engaging 40. graceful 41. thick-skinned 42. sensitive 43. fragile 44. intuitive 45. Determined 46. self-consumed 47. goal-oriented 48. open-minded 49. radiant 50. feisty

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13 6 KEY WORDS 1. AMBITIOUS 2. BROKEN 3. IMPASSIONED 4. CAPTIVATING 5. PROVOCATIVE 6. HEADSTRONG

DEFINITIONS 1. having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed. 2. having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order. 3. filled with or showing great emotion. 4. capable of attracting and holding interest; charming. 5. arousing sexual desire or interest, especially deliberately. 6. self-willed and obstinate.


call outs "When she started to become something else, she didn't know how to keep it together." "After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft's work." "She refers to nudity as the 'urban uniform.'" "[MY MODELS] are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. More like self- portraits."

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15 word combinations heated provocation captivating ambitions hypnotizingly vivid deeply captivating provocative infatuation fragmented passions ambitiously broken


16 article titles head strong: photos by Vanessa Beecroft captivating fragments: Performance art and photos by Vanessa Beecroft vivid ambitions: vanessa beecroft Deeply captivating photos by vanessa beecroft vanessa beecroft presents fragmented passions hypnotizingly vivid photographs by vanessa beecroft


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key image


ansel adams Ansel Adams (Feb. 20 1902 — Apr. 22, 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup. An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty. His relatively elderly parents, affluent family history, and the live-in presence of his mother’s maiden sister and aged father all combined to create an environment that was decidedly Victorian and both socially and emotionally conservative. Adams’s mother spent much of her time brooding and fretting over her husband’s inability to restore the Adams fortune, leaving an ambivalent imprint on her son. Charles Adams, on the other hand, deeply and patiently influenced, encouraged, and supported his son. When Adams was twelve he taught himself to play the piano and read music. Soon he was taking lessons, and the ardent pursuit of music became his substitute for formal schooling. For the next dozen years the piano was Adams’s primary occupation and, by 1920, his intended profession. Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth. Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography. 1927 was a pivotal year of Adams’s life. He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and took his first High Trip. He then came under the influence of Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and patron of arts. Literally the day after they met, Bender set in motion the preparation and publication of Adams’ first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras [sic]. Bender’s friendship, encouragement, and tactful financial support changed Adams’s life dramatically. His creative energies and abilities as a photographer blossomed, and he began to have the confidence and wherewithal to pursue his dreams. Indeed, Bender’s benign patronage triggered the transformation of a journeyman concert pianist

into the artist whose photographs, as critic Abigail Foerstner wrote in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 3, 1992), “did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer’s epics did for Odysseus.” Although Adams’s transition from musician to photographer did not happen at once, his passion shifted rapidly after Bender came into his life, and the projects and possibilities multiplied. Adams’s star rose rapidly in the early 1930s, propelled in part by his ability and in part by his effusive energy and activity. He made his first visit to New York in 1933, on a pilgrimage to meet photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the artist whose work and philosophy Adams most admired and whose life of commitment to the medium he consciously emulated. Their relationship was intense and their correspondence frequent, rich, and insightful. Although profoundly a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the 1930s and 1940s, and the Stieglitz circle played a vital role in his artistic life. In 1933 the Delphic Gallery gave Adams his first New York show. His first series of technical articles was published in Camera Craft in 1934, and his first widely distributed book, Making a Photograph, appeared in 1935. Most important, in 1936 Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place. Recognition, however, did not alleviate Adams’s financial pressures. In a letter dated 6 August 1935 he wrote Weston, “I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the financial fence.” Adams was compelled to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer. Clients ran the gamut, including the Yosemite concessionaire, the National Park Service, Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT&T, a small women’s college, a dried fruit company, and Life, Fortune, and Arizona Highways magazines — in short, everything from portraits to catalogues to Coloramas. On 2 July 1938 he wrote to friend David McAlpin, “I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work.” Although Adams became an unusually skilled commercial photographer, the work was intermittent, and he constantly worried about paying the next month’s bills. His financial situation remained precarious and a source of considerable stress until late in life.

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susan sontag

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herb lubalin He is an American graphic designer. He collaborated with Ralph Ginzburg on three of Ginzburg’s magazines: Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde, and was responsible for the creative visual beauty of these publications. He designed a typeface, ITC Avant Garde, for the last of these; this font could be described as a reproduction of art-deco, and is seen in logos created in the 1990s and 2000s. Herb Lubalin was two years old when AIGA awarded its first medal to the individual who, in the judgment of its board of directors and its membership, had distinguished himself in, and contributed significantly to, the field of graphic arts. There has been a lot of history between that moment and the evening in January 1981, when members, directors, friends and admirers gathered in the Great Hall of the New York Chamber of Commerce building to be with Lubalin as he accepted the 62nd AIGA medal. A lot of that history, at least in the graphic arts, had been written—and designed—by Herb Lubalin. And Lubalin has been recognized, awarded, written about, imitated and emulated for it. There’s hardly anyone better known and more highly regarded in the business. Lubalin’s receipt of AIGA’s highest honor was never a matter of “if,” only “when.” Coming to terms with Herb Lubalin’s work takes you quickly to the heart of a very big subject: the theory of meaning and how meaning is communicated—how an idea is moved, full and resonant, from one mind to another. Not many have been able to do that better than Lubalin. Typography is the key. It is where you start with Lubalin and what you eventually come back to.However, “typography” is not a word Lubalin thought should be applied to his work. “What I do is not really typography, which I think of as an essentially mechanical means of putting characters down on a page. It’s designing with letters. Aaron Burns called it, ‘typographics,’ and since you’ve got to put a name on things to make them memorable, ‘typographics’ is as good a name for what I do as any.” Lubalin was a brilliant, iconoclastic advertising art director—in the 1940s with Reiss Advertising and then for twenty years with Sudler and Hennessey. Recipient of medal after medal, award after award, and in 1962 named Art Director of the Year by the National Society of Art Directors, he has also been a publication designer of great originality and distinction. He designed startling Eros in the early 60s, intellectually and visually astringent Fact in the mid-60s, lush and luscious Avant Garde late in the same decade, and founded U & lc in 1973 and saw it flourish into the 80s. But it is Lubalin and his typographics—words, letters, pieces of letters, additions to letters, connections and combinations, and virtuoso manipulation of letters—to which all must return. The “typographic impresario of our time,” Dorfsman called him, a man who “profoundly influenced and changed our vision and perception of letter forms, words and language.” Lubalin at his best delivers the shock of meaning through his typography-based design. Avant Garde literally moves ahead. The Sarah Vaughn Sings poster does just that. Ice Capades skates. There is a child in Mother & Child, and a family in Families. If words are a way of making meaning, then the shapes of their letters give voice, color, character and individuality to that meaning. The shock of meaning, in Lubalin’s artful hands, delivers delight, as well, delight that flows from sight and insight. “Lubalin,” praises Dorfsman, “used his extraordinary talent and taste to transform words and meaning from a medium to an inextricable part of the message? and in so doing, raised typography from the level of craft to art.” And it is in his paper U & lc that a lot of threads in Lubalin’s life and career get pulled together. It is publication dedicated to the joyful, riotous exploration of the complex relationships between words, letters, type and meaning—an ebullient advertisement for himself as art director, editor, publisher and purveyor of the shock and delight of meaning through typography and design. “Right now,” he said, “I have what every designer wants and few have the good fortune to achieve. I’m my own client. Nobody tells me what to do.” And 170,000 subscribers which, with a conservative pass-along estimate, yields 400,000 readers, benefit. Herb Lubalin’s unique contribution to our times goes well beyond design in much the same way that his typographic innovations go beyond the twenty-six letters, ten numerals and the handful of punctuation marks that comprise our visual, literal vocabulary. Lubalin’s imagination, sight and insight have erased boundaries and pushed back frontiers. As an agency art director, he pushed beyond the established norm of copy-driven advertising and added a new dimension. As a publication designer, he pushed beyond the boundaries that constrained existing magazines—both in form and content. In fact, some said he had pushed beyond the boundaries of “good taste,” though in retrospect that work is more notable today for its graphic excellence than for its purported prurience. Lubalin helped push back the boundaries of the impact and perception of design—from an ill-defined, narrowly recognized craft to a powerful communication medium that could put big, important ideas smack in the public eye. And finally, he pushed back what were believed to be the boundaries of design for entire generations of designers who were to follow. For such a quiet, gentle person to have accomplished so much is testimony indeed to the power of ideas in the hands of a master.

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Why was Esquire Magazine important?

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Esquire was founded in 1933, as a men’s apparel trade magazine with exclusive distribution through haberdashery stores. By the 1940s, the magazine had broadened its focus and increased in popularity, due in large part to the famous Varga Girl covers. As the only general-interest lifestyle magazine for sophisticated men, Esquire defines, reflects and celebrates what it means to be a man in contemporary American culture. Required reading for the man who is intellectually curious and socially aware, Esquire speaks to the scope and diversity of his passions with spirited storytelling, superb style and a tonic splash of irreverent humor. Esquire, celebrated for its strong literary tradition, offers pieces on diverse topics—from politics and health to fashion and the arts—by the finest journalists and authors working today. The magazine has always been a showcase for writers, beginning in the 30s with Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and including the pioneers of so-called New Journalism in the 60s—Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese, among others. Regularly recognized as one of America’s top magazines, Esquire has received many plaudits. The title is the most-honored monthly magazine in America. Over the past 15 years, it has won a total of 16 National Magazine Awards, the industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. Its website and e-reader applications have been similarly honored—Esquire won the first-ever National Magazine Award for iPad applications. Most recently, Advertising Age named David Granger Editor of the Year and honored the magazine in its annual A-List issue. Also in 2013, Esquire was named Hottest Men’s Magazine by Adweek magazine in its annual Hot List issue. Over the years, Esquire has also been honored with numerous awards for short fiction, multiple citations in the Best American Sportswriting, Best American Magazine Writing, Best American Crime Writing anthologies, and an award from the James Beard Foundation for superlative writing about food. The Society of Publication Designers has honored Esquire with 20 gold medals. For its innovative 75th anniversary cover in October 2008, which was the first time electronic ink was used on a magazine cover, Esquire was named Publishing Innovator of the Year by Publishing Executive Magazine. Esquire has consistently been a leader in implementing technological change in the print arena. In addition to the e-ink cover, the December 2009 issue featured the use of Augmented Reality on the cover and throughout the issue, which—when held up to a computer’s webcam—triggered an interactive experience that brought several features to life. In December 2012, Esquire announced the first-ever completely interactive, shareable magazine made possible by Netpage, the app for paper, through which readers can digitally clip, save, and share every article, ad, and photo from the December print edition of Esquire and all issues going forward. Readers can also play exclusive videos and purchase items right from the pages for an entirely new way to experience a magazine. In October 2013, Esquire celebrated its 80th anniversary. “The Life of Man” was the largest issue in Esquire’s history. Hearst Magazines acquired Esquire in 1986. In addition to its U.S. flagship, Esquire publishes 27 editions around the world.


alexey brodovitch

30 Alexey Brodovitch is remembered today as the art director of Harper’s Bazaar for nearly a quarter of a century. But the volatile Russian emigré’s influence was much broader and more complex than his long tenure at a fashion magazine might suggest. He played a crucial role in introducing into the United States a radically simplified, “modern” graphic design style forged in Europe in the 1920s from an amalgam of vanguard movements in art and design. Through his teaching, he created a generation of designers sympathetic to his belief in the primacy of visual freshness and immediacy. Fascinated with photography, he made it the backbone of modern magazine design, and he fostered the development of an expressionistic, almost primal style of picture-taking that became the dominant style of photographic practice in the 1950s. In addition, Brodovitch is virtually the model for the modern magazine art director. He did not simply arrange photographs, illustrations and type on the page; he took an active role in conceiving and commissioning all forms of graphic art, and he specialized in discovering and showcasing young and unknown talent. His first assistant in New York was a very young Irving Penn. Leslie Gill, Richard Avedon and Hiro are among the other photographers whose work Brodovitch nurtured during his long career. So great was his impact on the editorial image of Harper’s Bazaar that he achieved celebrity status; the film Funny Face, for example, which starred Fred Astaire as a photographer much like Avedon, named its art-director character “Dovitch.” Despite his professional achievements and public success, however, Brodovitch was never a happy man. Born in Russia in 1898 of moderately well-to-do parents, he deferred his goal of attending the Imperial Art Academy to fight in the Czarist army, first against the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then against the Bolsheviks. In defeat, he fled Russia with his family and future wife and, in 1920, settled in Paris. There, despite the burden of exile, he prospered; in 1924 his poster design for an artists’ ball won first prize, and in 1925 he won medals for fabric, jewelry and display design at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts (the landmark “Art Deco” exposition). Soon he was in great demand, designing restaurant décor, posters and department store advertisements. He came to the United States in 1930 to start a department of advertising (later known as the Philadelphia College of Art). There he trained students in the fundamentals of European design, while embarking on numerous freelance illustration assignments in Philadelphia and New York. In 1934 Carmel Snow, the new editor of Harper’s Bazaar, saw his design work and immediately hired him to be its art director. It was the beginning of a collaboration that was to revolutionize both fashion and magazine design, and that catapulted Bazaar past its arch-rival, Vogue. At Harper’s Bazaar, where he was art director from 1934 to 1958, Brodovitch used the work of such European artists as Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and A.M. Cassandre, as well as photographers Bill Brandt, Brasai, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. He was the first to give assignments to emigré photographers Lisette Model and Robert Frank. Starting with a splashy, sometimes overly self-conscious style largely borrowed from his early counterpart at Vogue, Dr. M.F. Agha (AIGA medalist, 1957), he gradually refined his page layouts to the point of utter simplicity. By the 1950’s, white space was the hallmark of the Brodovitch style. Models in Parisian gowns and American sports clothes “floated” on the page, surrounded by white backgrounds, while headlines and type took on an ethereal presence. At his best, Brodovitch was able to create an illusion of elegance from the merest hint of materiality. Clothes were presented not as pieces of fabric cut in singular ways, but as signs of a fashionable life. Besides his achievements at Bazaar, Brodovitch’s legacy as a publications designer includes the short-lived but influential magazine Portfolio, three issues of which were published in 1949 and 1950. A flashy, innovative quarterly aimed at the design profession, Portfolio contained profusely illustrated feature on Alexander Calder, Charles Eames, Paul Rand, Saul Steinberg and others, as well as articles surveying the graphic variations of cattle brands and shopping bags. As art editor, Brodovitch helped conceive the magazine’s contents, as well as creating its distinct design with the help of die-cuts, transparent pages, multi-page fold outs and other elaborate (and expensive) graphic devices. Throughout his career, he continued to teach. His “Design Laboratory,” which focused variously on illustration, graphic design and photography and on occasion were offered under the auspices of the AIGA, provided a system of rigorous critiques for those who aspired to magazine work. As a teacher, Brodovitch was inspiring, though sometimes harsh and unrelenting. A student’s worst offense was to present something Brodovitch found boring; at best, the hawk-faced Russian would pronounce a work “interesting.” Despite his unbending manner and lack of explicit critical standards—Brodovitch did not formulate a theory of design—many students under his tutelage discovered untapped creative reserves. Even at the height of his powers, however, Brodovitch’s personal life remained linked to loss and disappointment. His family life was evidently unhappy. In addition, a series of house fires in the 1950s destroyed not only his country retreat but also his paintings, archives and library. In the 1960s after he left Harper’s Bazaar, he continued to teach but did little design work. He died in 1971 in a small village in southern France where he had spent the last three years of his life. Today Brodovitch’s legacy is remarkably rich. His layouts remain models of graphic intelligence and inspiration, even if seldom imitated, and the artists, photographers and designers whose careers he influenced continue to shape graphic design in the image of his uncompromising ideals.


Johnathan HoefleR Jonathan Hoefler (born August 22, 1970) is an American typeface designer. Hoefler (pronounced “Heffler”) founded The Hoefler Type Foundry in 1989, a type foundry in New York. In 1999 Hoefler began working with type designer Tobias Frere-Jones, and from 2005–2014 the company operated under the name Hoefler & Frere-Jones until their public split. Founded in the early 1990s, Hoefler & Frere Jones (now Hoefler & Co.) is a legendary type foundry responsible for some of the most popular new fonts to come out in the past 20 years. With a library of almost 800 typefaces, including the architecture-inspired Gotham font and the eponymous Hoefler Text, the foundry boasts a list of famous clients as long as your arm, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Tiffany, Nike, Hewlett-Packard, and more. The world was shocked by the high-profile breakup of Hoefler & Frere-Jones, one of the world’s most prestigious typeface foundries. The firm was responsible for some of the most widely used typefaces of recent times, most notably the Gotham and Surveyor families, and served clients including GQ, Esquire and The New York Times. While many had assumed the business was an equal partnership between Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, it emerged that Hoefler had negotiated sole ownership of the firm. Frere-Jones sued for half of the business, and the pair descended into one of the most closely watched lawsuits the design world has seen in years. The fight ended in 2014. According to documents filed with the New York County Supreme Court, the case of “Tobias Frere-Jones v. Jonathan Hoefler” has been settled by the court’s Alternate Dispute Resolution program. The details of the settlement are confidential and it is still unclear how the dispute over ownership was resolved, but it’s worth noting that the settlement comes just before the discovery period of the trial was set to begin, preventing any potentially embarrassing documents from being admitted into public evidence. The firm has been rebranded as Hoefler & Co., and is now under the sole direction of Jonathan Hoefler. Hoefler has designed original typefaces for Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Esquire and several institutional clients, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and alternative band They Might Be Giants. Perhaps his best-known work is the Hoefler Text family of typefaces, designed for Apple Computer and now appearing as part of the Macintosh operating system. He also designed the current wordmark of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 1995, Hoefler was named one of the forty most influential designers in America by I.D. magazine, and in 2002, the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) presented him with its most prestigious award, the Prix Charles Peignot for outstanding contributions to type design. Hoefler and Frere-Jones have been profiled in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and Esquire Magazine, and appearances on National Public Radio and CBS Sunday Morning. Hoefler’s work is part of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s permanent collection.

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During the early part of her career Gail Anderson was seen but not much heard, which doesn’t mean she wasn’t outspoken. In fact, typographically speaking she was incredibly eloquent. At Rolling Stone magazine, where she held numerous positions from 1987–2002, starting as an associate and becoming senior art director, Anderson lent her flair to much of the conceptual typography that defined the magazine’s feature pages. She appreciably contributed to the widespread eclectic typographic fashion that prevailed throughout the 1990s but never fell into a style trap. For much of her tenure at Rolling Stone, working with art director (and AIGA Medalist) Fred Woodward, she fine-tuned her typographic expressionism in a cramped office filled floor to ceiling with all kinds of stimulating scraps, devising quirky letterforms out of traditional and untraditional materials, from hot metal and wood type to twigs and bottle caps. From this typographic wellspring came an ever-expanding vocabulary of signs and symbols, methods and mannerisms that, in turn, influenced a slew of designers who followed (and at times copied) her graphic eccentricities. After Rolling Stone she joined SpotCo, one of the largest entertainment design agencies in New York, where she is now creative director of design, and for half a dozen years her poster designs for scores of Broadway and off-Broadway plays have illuminated bus shelters, subway stations and billboards. A lifelong New Yorker, Anderson embodies three virtues: inspiring art director, inspired designer and inspirational teacher. Despite being deceptively low key, she does everything with intense passion. Her extreme devotion to craft (she often frets for ages over the minutest typographic detail) combined with an unceasing, though always natural, pursuit of whimsy distinguishes her brand of quirkiness from the larger pack of knee-jerk quirks. While some might choose to call her method retro, the work defies stylistic pigeonholing. She revels in making typography from old and new forms, which is neither modernist nor post-modernist, but rather spot-on contemporaneous. During the early digital ‘90s when typography was alternately under- and over-adorned, Anderson exacted the right balance with compositions that were elegant yet muscular, and, more importantly, surprising and delightful. “Her significant contribution to design,” says Drew Hodges, her former classmate and current employer as founder and president of SpotCo, “is a belief in the tradition of typography and a joy in using it in a contemporary vernacular.” Anderson developed her approach while studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York under Paula Scher. But growing up, she recalls, “I used to make little Jackson Five and Partridge Family magazines. I wondered who designed Spec, 16 and Tiger Beat in real life, and as I got older, I began to research what was then called ‘commercial art.’” Anderson’s first job post-college was a brief stint at Vintage Books in 1984, followed by two years at The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, from 1985–1987. Under art director Ronn Campisi, the Globe was at the vanguard of new newspaper design. She worked on the magazine with Lynn Staley and Lucy Bartholomay. Meanwhile, Campisi was an early proponent of typographic eclecticism, which stirred together Victorian, Deco and Futurist typographies in a contemporary stew. Working with Woodward at Rolling Stone was a hand-in-glove experience—they knew each other about as well as two people could. “Music always set the tone, and he was into low lighting, so the design room felt sort of cozy,” Anderson recalls. “And he’d just howl with glee when we ‘got it’ and it was a winner. He could really get you jazzed about the process, even when it was difficult.” Anderson’s own typographic proclivities were ultimately well suited to Rolling Stone, where she designed what might best be called “theatrical typography.” Like actors on a stage Anderson directed letterforms to perform dramatic and comic feats. In just two dimensions they emoted, expressed and exuded energy that projected them off the page. It is no surprise that the class she now teaches in the School of Visual Arts’ MFA Designer as Author program is about choreographing typefaces, making them dance to the beats and rhythms of popular and alternative music. Anderson has a special gift for assigning illustration and has been a stalwart advocate of illustrators, both upcoming and established. “With her keen eye for fresh talent, she nurtured a whole generation of illustrators, while staying loyal to the greats as well,” says Woodward. The most difficult time in her career came in 2002, after her move to SpotCo, when negotiating the transition from editorial design to advertising. “You approach each project searching for a dozen great ideas, not just one or two,” Anderson explains of how her work competes for the attention (and dollars) of theatergoers. “After about seven designs, you realize there really are infinite ways to look at a problem. I now completely enjoy the process, though I’m keenly aware that all but one of those dozen great ideas will eventually be killed. It’s strangely liberating.”Always looking for that little visual wink or tiny gesture of extra care, Anderson says, “I’m all about the wood-type bits and pieces. I love making those crunchy little objects into other things, like faces.” A fancy border and detailed extras are always part of her repertoire. “I’d ask the designers I work with to put them on everything, if I could,” Anderson says, “but I like being employed.” More often than not, however, Anderson admits that even in her theater posters the ornamentation is peeled off little by little. “If we’ve done our job properly, the doodads become part of the package, and not something in the way hat needs to be reduced or cut out.” I have worked with Anderson for close to 20 years as a co-author on various books, only two of which she has also designed. Each collaboration has been an exceptional treat. In a collaborator it is the greatest asset for an author to be motivated by design. Every section—indeed each spread of the books we did that Anderson designed—was ingenious, if not joyful. The mixture of disparate, elegantly proportioned faces and ornamental borders and rules—among her graphic signatures—produced smile-inducing visual experiences that engage the reader more intimately with the content. In this sense she is a generous designer who actually cares about her audience. For its human dimension, the art for The Good Body, the Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) show about women and body image, struck just the right chord with its curvy Isabelle Dervaux line drawing and two ice-cream scoops for breasts. But Anderson may be best known for the Avenue Q subway-inspired, puppet-fur logo, a delightfully witty image that became an indelible brand for the play. “I’m definitely wittier on paper than in real life,” she laments. “I think I approach the work looking for a little wink where I can, because deep down, I hope people associate clever with smart. Or maybe in the end, I still subscribe to Ronn Campisi’s fish-wrap theory. If I think of it as disposable, I’m less likely to fear experimenting a little.” Anderson has been the quintessential collaborator because, as she notes, “it’s more fun to work with other designers and art directors; I really enjoy the back and forth.” Every now and then, though, she needs to design alone, “in my office, with my music on.” She adds, “Most high-octane, solo designing has to be done at night. I’m trying to change my ways but it’s not always easy.” Another evolution for this formidable print designer is her expansion into new media. Fortuitously, her type, which has always seemed to move, lends itself perfectly to motion. As her lifetime achievement is being celebrated, we can be sure that Anderson has yet a lifetime more to achieve.

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33 David carson? This particular art movement became more and more popular during the 1990s. It appeared to be a very messy and chaotic kind of design. Words, textures, backgrounds that formed posters and ads for various things were designed in a very interesting and different typography style. A style called Grunge that became ubiquitous throughout the years and it became the largest, most widespread movement in recent design history. One of the most important things about Graphic Design and Design in general is style. David Carson is a great example for a designer who has developed his own unique style which is so well trained, that anyone can tell a Carson design at a first glance. He was one of the most popular and influential graphic designers of the 1990s. He was imitated by designers throughout the world and his style defined the grunge typography era. Whilst being a designer, and an art director, graphic design was not Carson’s primal career path. He graduated with a degree in sociology and started teaching while training to be a professional surfer. He started experimenting with graphic design in the early 1980′s. With surfing being a general part of Carson’s life, it has played a great role on his design career. It is one of the reasons for his motivation and success to direct and design various surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding magazines, websites, ads and products like Quiksilver, Burton, SURFportugal, TwSkateboarding, etc. Besides the various magazines David Carson has designed, he became well known for his experimental, deconstructive typographic designs and art direction for Ray Gun magazine. The magazine’s contents were music artists, pop culture, lifestyle, advertising, celebrity icons, etc., and so, Carson was successful in his aim to design it accordingly. David Carson became best known for his designs for Ray Gun which was the peak of his design career and he started attracting many new admirers to his work. Another example for a successful project in David Carson’s work is The Book of Probes. Design Legend David Carson Brings Marshall McLuhan’s “Probes” to Life. – Maria Popova, brainpickings.com, 17 February 2012. All in all, Carson uses unpublished photos from his earlier work and computer manipulated imagery in order to visually present 400 pages, each page containing one “probe” – Marshall McLuhan’s aphorisms, quotes from his books, lectures, articles, etc. What makes this partnership so interesting and unique is that ‘this collaboration creates a reciprocal and complementary tension between McLuhan’s words and Carson’s images’, according to the editors of the book A video on TED talks by David Carson confirmed my thoughts on how interesting it is to get a sense of the artist’s personality and in this video in particular, their sense of humor. Also, how exciting it is not just to see or read about given artwork, but to hear what the artist himself has to say about his own, or things that have impressed them. For instance, David Carson gives a very clear and simple example on how, more or less, typography affects a given message. David Carson was asked to design and article about an interview with Bryan Ferry, which he found to be very dull and boring, so he typed the whole article in Zapf Dingbats. What I admire most about David Carson is how he goes out of his way to experiment and to take risks and thus, creates these unique designs. By breaking all the rules of graphic design he gains major success in his career and inspires and influences graphic designers worldwide, who admire, follow and imitate him. By taking risks without being afraid to do so, he gets rewarded by receiving the title ‘the father of grunge’.


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When the clothing company Esprit, which had prided itself as being socially liberal and environmentally friendly, was awarded the 1986 AlGA Design Leadership award, an irate Tibor anonymously distributed leaflets during the awards ceremony at the AlGA National Design Conference in San Francisco protesting the company’s exploitation of Asian laborers. Tibor believed that award-winning design was not separate from the entire corporate ethic and argued that “many bad companies have great design.” In 1989, as co-chair with Milton Glaser of the AlGA’s “Dangerous Ideas” conference in San Antonio, he urged designers to question the effects of their work on the environment and refuse to accept any client’s product at face value. As an object lesson and act of hubris, he challenged designer Joe Duffy to an impromptu debate about a full-page advertisement that he and his then partner, British corporate designer Michael Peters, had placed in the Wall Street Journal promoting their services to Fortune 500 corporations. While most designers admired this self-promotional effort, Tibor insisted that the ad perpetuated mediocrity and was an example of selling out to corporate capitalism. This outburst was the first, but not the last, in which Tibor criticized another designer in public for perceived misdeeds. By the early 1990s, Tibor also had written (or collaborated with others in writing) numerous finger-wagging manifestos that exposed the pitfalls of what he sarcastically called “professional” design. Tibor saw himself as a social activist for whom graphic design was a means of achieving two ends: good design and social responsibility. Good design, which he defined as “unexpected and untried,” added more interest, and was thus a benefit, to everyday life. Second, since graphic design is mass communication, Tibor believed it should be used to increase public awareness of a variety of social issues. His own design firm, M&Co (named after his wife and co-creator, Maira), which started in 1979 selling conventional “design by the pound” to banks and department stores, was transformed in the mid-1980s into a soapbox for his social mission. He urged clients like Restaurant FIorent to use the advertising M&Co created for them to promote political or social messages. He devoted M&Co’s seasonal self-promotional gifts to advocate support for the homeless. One Christmas he sent over 300 clients and colleagues a small cardboard box filled with the typical Spartan contents of a homeless-shelter meal (a sandwich, crackers, candy bar, etc.) and offered to match any donations that the recipients made to an agency for the homeless. The following year he sent a book peppered with facts about poverty along with twenty dollars and a stamped envelope addressed to another charity. Tibor was criticized for using the issue of homelessness as a public relations ploy to garner attention for M&Co. And indeed he was a master at piquing public interest in just this way. But he was also sincere. Perhaps the impulse came from his childhood, when as a seven-year-old Hungarian immigrant fleeing the Communists in 1956, he and his family were displaced—virtually homeless—in a new land. Although he became more American than most natives, he never forgot the time when he was an “alien.” He savored the nuances of type and had a fetish for vernacular design—the untutored or quotidian signs, marquees, billboards, and packages that compose mass culture—but understood that being a master of good design meant nothing unless it supported a message that led to action. Even most stylistic work must be viewed in the context of Tibor’s persistence. Everything had to have meaning and resonance. A real estate brochure, like one for Red Square, an apartment building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, had to be positioned in terms of how it would benefit the surrounding low-income community. One message was never enough. When Tibor sold a “design” to a client, he did not hype a particular typeface or color, but rather how the end result would simultaneously advance both client and culture. Tibor did not, however, rebel against being a professional—M&Co was in business to be successful and he enjoyed the rewards of prosperity. But he questioned the conventions of success. “Everyone can hire a good photographer, choose a tasteful typeface and produce a perfect mechanical,” Tibor once railed. “So what? That means ninety-five percent of the work exists on the same professional level, which for me is the same as being mediocre.” Tibor ardently avoided any solution, or any client, that would perpetuate this bete noir. About clients, Tibor said: “We’re not here to give them what’s safe and expedient. We’re not here to help eradicate everything of visual interest from the face of the earth. We’re here to make them think about design that’s dangerous and unpredictable. We’re here to inject art into commerce.” With little patience for mundane and insipid thinking, whether it came from clients, other designers, or M&Co, Tibor was intolerant of mindless consistency and was not reluctant to make people angry—including associates, friends, and allies. For example, in a speech before the Modernism and Eclecticism design history symposium, he accused two friends, Charles Spencer Anderson and Paula Scher, who revived historical styles at that time, of being graverobbers who abrogated their responsibility as creators. Curiously, M&Co had developed a house style of its own based on vernacularism, the “undesign” that Tibor celebrated for its unfettered expression, which also fed into the postmodern penchant for referring to the past. While Tibor’s ire sometimes seemed inconsistent with his own practice, he rationalized M&Co’s use of vernacular as a symbol of protest—a means of undermining the cold conformity of the corporate International Style. M&Co left scores of design artifacts behind, but Tibor will be remembered more for his critiques on the nature of consumption and production than for his formal studio achievements, which were contributed to by many talented design associates. Despite numerous entries in design annuals, and the catalogue of objects in his own book, Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist (Princeton Architectural Press, 1998), the heart of Tibor’s accomplishment was enlarging the parameters of design from service to cultural force. And this was no more apparent than in his later work. For when Tibor realized that stylish record albums, witty advertisements, and humorous watches and clocks had a limited cultural value, he turned to editing. First, he signed on as creative director of the magazines Artforum and Interview. But he mostly guided the look, not the content, of these publications. In fact, without total control he was frustrated by his inability to experiment with a new pictorial narrative theory that he was developing. As a teenager he was an avid fan of Life magazine, and believed that in the age of electronic media, photojournalism was still a more effective way to convey significant stories. While editing pictures for the photographer Oliviero Toscani, who had created the pictorial advertising identity for Benetton, the Italian clothing manufacturer, Tibor helped produce a series of controversial advertisements focusing on AIDS, racism, refugees, violence, and warfare that carried the Benetton logo but eschewed the fashions it sold. For him, this was sublimely subversive. Of the two names that changed design in the ‘80s and ‘90s—Mac and Tibor—one changed the way we work, the other the way we think. The former is a tool, the latter was our conscience.

Who is Tibor Kalman and what is M&Co?


Neville Brody Neville Brody is an internationally known British graphic designer and typographer, who is best known for his work on magazines, most notably ‘The Face.’ This magazine transformed the way in which designers and readers approach typography and layout. In addition to his magazine work, he designed record covers for such independent record companies as Fetish, Hannibal, and Phonogram Records in the 1980s. Along with his other work, Brody created a vast amount of typefaces throughout his career. A few of these types are Arcadia, Industrial, and Insignia. Brody was born in 1957 and grew up in Southgate, which is a suburb of North London. He commented that he does not remember a time in his life when he was planning to do anything other than art or painting. In 1975, Brody attended the Fine Art Foundation Program at Hornsey College of Art. The school was extremely conservative and at this time Brody decided to pursue a career in graphics instead of the Fine Arts. He says “why can’t you take a painterly approach within a printed medium?” In the autumn of 1976, Brody started a three-year BA course in graphics at the London College of Printing. Brody says he hated his time there, but that it was necessary to his development as a designer. “I wanted to communicate to as many people as possible, but also to make a popular form of art that was more personal and less manipulative. I had to find out more about how the process worked. The only way possible was to go to college and learn it,” His work was often considered too experimental. At one stage he was almost thrown out of the school for putting the Queen’s head sideways on the design of a postage stamp. “If tutors said they liked something I was doing, I would go away and change it, because such approval then made me think there must be something wrong with the work. I think that was a very positive and healthy attitude.” Brody’s attitude on computers has changed a lot since he first started using them. His view had been that if you could do something by hand, you should not use a machine. In 1987, Brody forced himself to play around with a friend’s computer. He says learning to use the Macintosh computer was a slow process. But in the end Brody acquired his skills with the mouse by playing a game called Crystal Quest for hours, instead of working. He realized all the ways that he could manipulate his work on a computer that he absolutely could not have done any other way. Although he still believes that a hand on experience is definitely necessary, he realizes that computers open up a whole avenue that would not be possible without their development. Dadaism and pop art have largely influenced Brody’s work. Although he says he never sought to copy these styles, he took from them a sense of dynamism and humanism and a non-acceptance of the traditional rules and values of art. These elements can be seen in Brody’s typefaces, which are having a very original and expressive design. All along the line, Neville Brody has tried to create and use typefaces that go against the grain of contemporary fashion. Others that have influenced Brody are Man Ray and Lazlo Maholy-Lazlo’s photography. Both of these men were able to stretch the limits of their fields, by inventing and manipulating techniques as never before. After his graduation, in the late 1970s, Brody began to design record covers for British punk music companies such as Fetish and Hannibal. The punk music scene then was more concerned with the ideas behind the music than with the actual music. Brody’s outrageous cover designs were readily accepted by these companies. Cabaret Voltaire and 23 Skiddo were two bands that he worked extensively for on album covers. In 1981, Brody began working for a magazine called ‘The Face.’ During this time he questioned the traditional structure of magazine design. “Why be inhibited by the edges of the page?”says Brody. His main concerns were to encourage people to have to look twice at a page and to make the magazine as visually interesting as possible. Brody worked at ‘The Face’ until 1986. Brody also worked with ‘City Limits’ and ‘New Socialist,’ both 1980’s magazines out of London. Brody became well known around the world in 1988, when his biography was published and he displayed his work in several large art exhibitions. There was a period between 1987 and 1990, when Brody was working for the magazine ‘Arena,’ when he designed mostly minimalistic non-decorative typefaces. Brody felt his work had been ripped off too much. As a result of this he did not want to make anymore new statements what-so-ever. He began to create simple fonts and avoided creating anything too exotic for a period of time. Since 1987 Brody has had his own London studio. He found that overseas clients were more supportive of his work intentions — to embrace the potential of the computer and to provide companies with the templates that they wanted from his own studio. Commissions from Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Men’s Bigi and Parco in Japan, and the opportunity to design postage stamps for the Dutch PTT were followed by two major television graphics projects. The transition to working with electronic images was reflected by Brody’s involvement with digital type. In 1990 he opened FontWorks with a collogue named Stuart Jenson. Neville Brody became the director of FontShop International, with whom he launched the experimental type magazine called FUSE. Neville Brody has not only changed the world of typography, but that of graphic design as well. His ideas of creating typefaces that are more concerned with being graphically oriented, rather than contemporary or simply readable, have affected both typography and graphic design.

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blog What are the advantages of a multiple column grid? Some of the advantages of a multiple column grid include the better ability to establish hierarchy through the inclusion of multiple elements such as text, images and quotes. How many characters is optimal for a line length? words per line? The ideal number of characters per line would be about 50-60 or 9-12 words. Why is the baseline grid used in design? You use a baseline grid to create a rhythm through type size and leading. What are reasons to set type justified? ragged (unjustified)? Why someone would set type justified is to create a clean edge around the text box and better use the space of the page. Ragged text is more organic and natural and doesn’t leave awkward gaps within the text when you justify What is a typographic river? Thats when there are gaps that line us and flow down the text. What does clothesline, hang-line or flow line mean? This is for captions or headers and creates a consistent space throughout the spreads. What is type color/texture mean? Type color shows contrast within a spread out body of text. Texture is made through different typefaces. How does x-height effect type color? The larger the x height, the more the colors stand out and appear bolder. The smaller the x height, the lighter the colors will appear. What are some ways to indicate a new paragraph. Are there any rules? A new paragraph can be indicated by indents, outdents and space. One rule is to not start a new paragraph and indent it.

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Vanessa Beecroft

53 SLIDE one Vanessa Beecroft was born April 25, 1969. She is an Italian contemporary performance artist. She works in the United States after moving here from Genoa, Italy in 1994. Many of her works have made use of professional models, sometimes in large numbers and sometimes naked or nearly so. She refers to nudity as the “urban uniform.”

SLIDE two Beecroft’s first exhibition, VB01, was a presentation of her journal written over several years. It recorded types and quantities of food that she had eaten and her thoughts relating to the food and personal body image. The journal was displayed in an empty gallery. She invited thirty girls as a visual reference to the book and perhaps as a bodily projection of herself. She refers to them as a “special audience,” yet, as she quickly found out, the girls became the objects and subjects of focus.

SLIDE three VB55, one of her most famous works, features one hundred women standing still for three hours, each woman oiled from the waist up and wearing nothing but a pair of pantyhose. In 2005, Beecroft staged a performance on the occasion of the opening of the Louis Vuitton store on the in Paris. She placed models on the shelves next to Louis Vuitton bags.

SLIDE four Beecroft’s work—specifically VB45 and 46, at the Gagosian Gallery in California—has come under fire by feminist artist groups. Beecroft does not acknowledge the time commitment, exertion, and treatment endured by her models, leading critics to question the conceptual ideas put forth in her work.


54 SLIDE five Beecroft wanted to find boyish women for this show. However, it evolved in an unexpected manner through the inclusion of several California Institute of the Arts students. Their goal was to reveal the inherent anti-feminist nature of Beecroft and her work and write an exposé based on their experience of their participation. It allows us to view the artist and her decision-making process in a different light and to also see how the actions and attitudes of these women affected the outcome of the event.

SLIDE six Some people believe that she adopted two of her children solely to be her models. In an interview, she said, “I traveled to South Sudan to shoot a documentary on the Catholic Church. While shooting it, I nursed newborn motherless twins who were dying in an orphanage. I nursed them back to health during several trips, and then I wanted to adopt them since I couldn’t separate from them.”

SLIDE seven In the event titled They Come, Beecroft attempted to recreate the work Naked and Dressed, 1981 by Helmut Newton, the renowned fashion photographer. Beecroft observes of Newton’s nudes, “I like the way he portrays women, which is not the same way I do. His big nudes deal with sex, power, politics, Germany. They are smart-asses. They have control. Mine are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. More like self- portraits.”

SLIDE eight Beecroft didn’t intend to be a Performance Artist; the live aspect of the work was coincidental and driven by her obsession with body image and food. The girls were the visual aspect of her book and drawings, and her description of the work was trying to re-visualize a representational image in the form of a photograph or movie still, not to script or perform some sort of statement of feminist ideology.


SLIDE nine Very quickly, the girls become the show or event, not just a silent group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident. They became a distilled essence and extension of Beecroft herself. Therefore, as Beecroft comes to terms with this progression in her work, she realizes it is a performance, yet not anything quite like the Performance Art, Body Art, or Live Art that had come before.

SLIDE ten In 2008, Beecroft starting collaborating with Kanye West, a union that led to the scenography of the musician’s most popular Yeezy runway show. With the ultra-strong cast and a grandiose arrangement of scenery, the fifty models became nothing short of living frescos fusing art, music and fashion together.

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Vivid Ambitions: photographs by Vanessa Beecroft

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vivid ambitions

photographs by vanessa beecroft

Vanessa Beecroft, born April 25, 1969. Straight after Vanessa was born, the Beecrofts moved to Holland Park, west London. When she was three, her parents separated (Beecroft would not see her father again until she was 15) and her younger brother (currently training to be a judge in Italy) was sent to live with Maria Luisa’s parents in Genoa. She is an Italian contemporary performance artist. She works in the United States and is a contemporary artist whose performances, photographs, and paintings have attracted critical acclaim as well as controversial criticism. Many of her works have made use of professional models, sometimes in large numbers and sometimes naked or nearly so, to stage tableaux vivants. Beecroft’s work often features female models as living art objects that exist somewhere between figure and object, static and dynamic. Much of Beecroft’s work is informed by her personal struggle with an eating disorder and she consistently explores issues of body image and femininity in contemporary culture. Beecroft suffers from what psychiatrists call ‘exercise bulimia’, a compulsive need to burn off unwanted calories using excessive exercise. Her problems with food started with puberty. When she was 12, she started to become a woman and her body began to change. She was devastated because she couldn’t be a boy any more. She lost her boyish look. When she started to become something else, she didn’t know how to keep it together. It was really painful for her - the more you eat, the more like a woman you become. That’s when her obsession with food started. She felt very alone, but now she sees that every woman in her family has an eating disorder.’ At 14, she went to art school in Genoa. In her spare time, she read Vogue (her mother wouldn’t let her read it at home), visited galleries across Italy with her mother and spent weekends with her best friends - three aristocratic, anorexic sisters. For Beecroft, swimming was, until recently, an intoxicating drug. When she was pregnant with with her son, Dean, she insisted - despite the protests of her husband and his mother, a registered dietician - on swimming 100 laps a day to ensure her weight gain was kept to the minimum. Today, she no longer swims, instead practicing ashtanga yoga (‘power yoga’) seven days a week. Without it, she says she would ‘go crazy’. In her teens, she tried unsuccessfully to vomit food she wished she hadn’t eaten - all that saved her from rampant bulimia was her body’s refusal to play ball. The spectre of anorexia haunted her teens and twenties, too, when she smoked to keep her weight down, attempted crash-dieting with amphetamines, undertook damaging fasts, exercised beyond any sensible limits of endurance, and kept a diary - The Book of Food - detailing every single morsel that passed her lips between 1983 and 1993. The anxiety of having eaten something and having it inside and not knowing how big and how much... she thought, “I’m going to write it down and look at it and see if it’s really so much. And one day, I might give it to a doctor so they will analyse if it’s OK.” But then it became an obsession and she wrote down everything she ate. She would go all day thinking, “I ate an apple at 12 o’clock, I must write it down, I mustn’t forget.”’ Even now, a decade after she stopped keeping the food diary, there are still days when she longs to note what she eats, such was the power of this coping mechanism.

viewfinder morgan coonce


preliminary spreads intro spreads

vivid ambitions


03 Beecroft announced herself boldly to the art world in 1993, when she showed The Book of Food. After a professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera Scenografia in Milan, where she studied from 1988 to 1993, invited her to participate in a group show at the city’s Inga-Pin gallery, she adapted what remained of The Book of Food (the first four years of entries were lost by a friend hired to type them up) into a white cube-shaped book. The book, placed in the centre of an empty gallery, was supplemented by a ‘live sculpture’ or ‘live painting’ of 30 girls, consisting of fellow Brera students or girls found on the streets of Milan, who were instructed to move around the space, aloof, numb, dressed in Beecroft’s own clothes - mostly red or yellow (two of Beecroft’s favorite colors). Many of the girls, chosen for their uncanny resemblance to Beecroft, were themselves struggling with eating disorders. On the walls, drawings and watercolors of girls wrestling with eating disorders, primitive brightly colored stick figures (sometimes just an arm or a torso or hair or a leg) reminiscent of sketches by Tracey Emin (all chronologically titled VBDW01, VBDW02, VBDW03, the acronym standing for ‘Vanessa Beecroft Drawings and Watercolors’). This first ‘performance’ set the blueprint for Beecroft’s future as a conceptual artist. Since then, she has staged a further 53 performances around the world (all titled VB01, VB02, VB25, VB45, etc), each more elaborate than its predecessor. Earlier performances tended to feature a handful of girls wearing high heels (Beecroft calls heels ‘pedestals’), cheap costumes and wardrobe, allusions to European cinema (films by Fassbinder, Godard, Visconti) and classical painting (Rembrandt, Holbein, della Francesca), and red, yellow or platinum wigs. As budgets grew in proportion to her reputation, she started using professional models, strikingly presented by make-up artists such as Pat McGrath, and wearing clothes and accessories loaned or specially created by fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana, and Manolo Blahnik, all eager to associate themselves with Beecroft’s complex vision (even if Beecroft’s assistant tells me ‘The fashion in Vanessa’s work is a red herring’ and Beecroft herself says, ‘I don’t follow fashion’) Many of these mutually beneficial artist/designer collaborations (Beecroft gets kudos from the fashion press, the designers get intellectual cachet from the art press) are brokered by Beecroft’s long-term friend/mentor Franca Sozzani, the influential editor of Vogue Italia, who sees a very clear role for fashion in Beecroft’s work. ‘Fashion is important in her performances because she subdues it to her will,’ Sozzani tells me. ‘It’s not important as a logo, trend or status symbol: fashion items are used to underline the woman’s body and to express the concept behind her performances.’ The ‘girls’ (Beecroft’s term for the models) have also become increasingly stripped, to the extent where most performances since VB23 have featured partial or full nudity. These beautiful and disturbing tableaux vivants, which are always staged twice (once for the public, once for photographing and filming: Beecroft’s network of dealers trade in limited-edition photographs and DVD/video films of each performance) have confounded critics eager for easy categorization, been pronounced ‘dope’ by celebrity fans such as Leonardo DiCaprio, been slated as vapid art/ fashion fusion catwalk shows, and enraged older generations of feminists while thrilling the younger. As Maria Elena Buszek, an art historian at the Kansas City Art Institute, explains: ‘Beecroft is the veritable poster-girl for our current, third wave of feminist art history. There’s an ambivalence in her work that is present in the work of many of her contemporaries, which is the result of a culture that has both internalized feminist goals more than any generation that preceded it, and chafes against what it perceives as feminism’s restraints.’ Beecroft’s highly choreographed performance works examine what constitutes the perfect body, as well as the role of context in determining the intricate relationship between viewer and viewed. In her 2011 performance VB67, for example, nude female models were assembled among marble and plaster sculptures, subverting the traditional art viewing experience while emphasizing both the affinities and the stark differences between the living women and the sculptures. Beecroft studied at the Civico Liceo Artistico Nicolo’ Barabino (from 1983 to 1987) and the Accademia Ligustica Di Belle Arti (from 1987 to 1988) in Genoa and the Accademia Di Belle Arti Di Brera (from 1988 to 1993) in Milan. Titling her performances sequentially with her initials, her first performance VB01 took place in Milan in 1993.

"nudity is the 'urban uniform.'"


preliminary spreads


03 Titling her performances sequentially with her initials, her first performance VB01 took place in Milan in 1993. Featured at the center of the exhibition was her own “food diary,” the Book of Food, surrounded by near-motionless female nude models. This presentation became the original archetype for her performances and the exploration of narcissism, voyeurism, politics, eating disorders, the female form, and the female gaze. After arranging her models into a tableau vivant, most of which echo figural arrangements seen in classical Western Art, Beecroft then documented the performance through photography and film. Since VB01, Beecroft has staged over 60 performances at numerous institutions that include the Guggenheim Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1 in New York, NY, the Venice Biennial and Galleria d’Arte Moderna, in Bologna, Italy, as well as the Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. She has collaborated with prominent fashion designers, such as Miuccia Prada and Tom Ford, and most recently with the singer Kanye West. Her latest performance, VB70, took place in 2011 at the Lia Rumma Galleries in Milan and Naples, with sculptures from the project, titled VBMARMI, appearing at the Venice Biennial. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft’s work. Some see the fashion element as superficial, some see the naked Helmut Newton-esque images of these women as little more than ‘hooters for intellectuals’ (as one review famously dubbed her work). Some say she’s demeaning women, parading them like hunks of meat, in the process creating a male wet dream, while others say she’s reclaiming sexualized images of women from the pages of Penthouse and recontextualising them as symbols of feminist.

"[MY MODELS] are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. More like self- portraits."


preliminary spreads

vivid ambitions

photographs by vanessa beecroft


viewfinder morgan coonce


preliminary spreads

" t u


Vanessa Beecroft, born April 25, 1969. Straight after Vanessa was born, the Beecrofts moved to Holland Park, west London. When she was three, her parents separated (Beecroft would not see her father again until she was 15) and her younger brother (currently training to be a judge in Italy) was sent to live with Maria Luisa’s parents in Genoa. She is an Italian contemporary performance artist. She works in the United States and is a contemporary artist whose performances, photographs, and paintings have attracted critical acclaim as well as controversial criticism. Many of her works have made use of professional models, sometimes in large numbers and sometimes naked or nearly so, to stage tableaux vivants. Beecroft’s work often features female models as living art objects that exist somewhere between figure and object, static and dynamic. Much of Beecroft’s work is informed by her personal struggle with an eating disorder and she consistently explores issues of body image and femininity in contemporary culture. Beecroft suffers from what psychiatrists call ‘exercise bulimia’, a compulsive need to burn off unwanted calories using excessive exercise. Her problems with food started with puberty. When she was 12, she started to become a woman and her body began to change. She was devastated because she couldn’t be a boy any more. She lost her boyish look. When she started to become something else, she didn’t know how to keep it together. It was really painful for her - the more you eat, the more like a woman you become. That’s when her obsession with food started. She felt very alone, but now she sees that every woman in her family has an eating disorder.’ At 14, she went to art school in Genoa.

In her spare time, she read Vogue (her mother wouldn’t let her read it at home), visited galleries across Italy with her mother and spent weekends with her best friends - three aristocratic, anorexic sisters. For Beecroft, swimming was, until recently, an intoxicating drug. When she was pregnant with with her son, Dean, she insisted - despite the protests of her husband and his mother, a registered dietician - on swimming 100 laps a day to ensure her weight gain was kept to the minimum. Today, she no longer swims, instead practicing ashtanga yoga (‘power yoga’) seven days a week. Without it, she says she would ‘go crazy’. In her teens, she tried unsuccessfully to vomit food she wished she hadn’t eaten - all that saved her from rampant bulimia was her body’s refusal to play ball. The spectre of anorexia haunted her teens and twenties, too, when she smoked to keep her weight down, attempted crash-dieting with amphetamines, undertook damaging fasts, exercised beyond any sensible limits of endurance, and kept a diary - The Book of Food - detailing every single morsel that passed her lips between 1983 and 1993. The anxiety of having eaten something and having it inside and not knowing how big and how much... she thought, “I’m going to write it down and look at it and see if it’s really so much. And one day, I might give it to a doctor so they will analyse if it’s OK.” But then it became an obsession and she wrote down everything she ate. She would go all day thinking, “I ate an apple at 12 o’clock, I must write it down, I mustn’t forget.”’ Even now, a decade after she stopped keeping the food diary, there are still days when she longs to note what she eats, such was the power of this coping mechanism.

"nudity is the 'urban uniform.'" 03


preliminary spreads

Beecroft announced herself boldly to the art world in 1993, when she showed The Book of Food. After a professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera Scenografia in Milan, where she studied from 1988 to 1993, invited her to participate in a group show at the city’s Inga-Pin gallery, she adapted what remained of The Book of Food (the first four years of entries were lost by a friend hired to type them up) into a white cube-shaped book. The book, placed in the centre of an empty gallery, was supplemented by a ‘live sculpture’ or ‘live painting’ of 30 girls, consisting of fellow Brera students or girls found on the streets of Milan, who were instructed to move around the space, aloof, numb, dressed in Beecroft’s own clothes - mostly red or yellow (two of Beecroft’s favorite colors). Many of the girls, chosen for their uncanny resemblance to Beecroft, were themselves struggling with eating disorders. On the walls, drawings and watercolors of girls wrestling with eating disorders, primitive brightly colored stick figures (sometimes just an arm or a torso or hair or a leg) reminiscent of sketches by Tracey Emin (all chronologically titled VBDW01, VBDW02, VBDW03, the acronym standing for ‘Vanessa Beecroft Drawings and Watercolors’). This first ‘performance’ set the blueprint for Beecroft’s future as a conceptual artist. Since then, she has staged a further 53 performances around the world (all titled VB01, VB02, VB25, VB45, etc), each more elaborate than its predecessor. Earlier performances tended to feature a handful of girls wearing high heels (Beecroft calls heels ‘pedestals’), cheap costumes and wardrobe, allusions to European cinema (films by Fassbinder, Godard, Visconti) and classical painting (Rembrandt, Holbein, della Francesca), and red, yellow or platinum wigs. As budgets grew in proportion to her reputation, she started using professional models, strikingly presented by make-up artists such as Pat McGrath, and wearing clothes and accessories loaned or specially created by fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana, and Manolo Blahnik, all eager to associate themselves with Beecroft’s complex vision (even if Beecroft’s assistant tells me ‘The fashion in Vanessa’s work is a red herring’ and Beecroft herself says, ‘I don’t follow fashion’) Many of these mutually beneficial artist/designer collaborations (Beecroft gets kudos from the fashion press, the designers get intellectual cachet from the art press) are brokered by Beecroft’s long-term friend/mentor Franca Sozzani, the influential editor of Vogue Italia, who sees a very clear role for fashion in Beecroft’s work. ‘Fashion is important in her performances because she subdues it to her will,’ Sozzani tells me. ‘It’s not important as a logo, trend or status symbol: fashion items are used to underline the woman’s body and to express the concept behind her performances.’ The ‘girls’ (Beecroft’s term for the models) have also become increasingly stripped, to the extent where most performances since VB23 have featured partial or full nudity. These beautiful and disturbing tableaux vivants, which are always staged twice (once for the public, once for photographing and filming: Beecroft’s network of dealers trade in limited-edition photographs and DVD/video films of each performance) have confounded critics eager for easy categorization, been pronounced ‘dope’ by celebrity fans such as Leonardo DiCaprio, been slated as vapid art/fashion fusion catwalk shows, and enraged older generations of feminists while thrilling the younger. As Maria Elena Buszek, an art historian at the Kansas City Art Institute, explains: ‘Beecroft is the veritable poster-girl for our current, third wave of feminist art history. There’s an ambivalence in her work that is present in the work of many of her contemporaries, which is the result of a culture that has both internalized feminist goals more than any generation that preceded it, and chafes against what it perceives as feminism’s restraints.’ Beecroft’s highly choreographed performance works examine what constitutes the perfect body, as well as the role of context in determining the intricate relationship between viewer and viewed. In her 2011 performance VB67, for example, nude female models were assembled among marble and plaster sculptures, subverting the traditional art viewing experience while emphasizing both the affinities and the stark differences between the living women and the sculptures. Beecroft studied at the Civico Liceo Artistico Nicolo’ Barabino (from 1983 to 1987) and the Accademia Ligustica Di Belle Arti (from 1987 to 1988) in Genoa and the Accademia Di Belle Arti Di Brera (from 1988 to 1993) in Milan. Titling her performances sequentially with her initials, her first performance VB01 took place in Milan in 1993.


03


preliminary spreads Featured at the center of the exhibition was her own “food diary,” the Book of Food, surrounded by near-motionless female nude models. This presentation became the original archetype for her performances and the exploration of narcissism, voyeurism, politics, eating disorders, the female form, and the female gaze. After arranging her models into a tableau vivant, most of which echo figural arrangements seen in classical Western Art, Beecroft then documented the performance through photography and film. Since VB01, Beecroft has staged over 60 performances at numerous institutions that include the Guggenheim Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1 in New York, NY, the Venice Biennial and Galleria d’Arte Moderna, in Bologna, Italy, as well as the Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. She has collaborated with prominent fashion designers, such as Miuccia Prada and Tom Ford, and most recently with the singer Kanye West. Her latest performance, VB70, took place in 2011 at the Lia Rumma Galleries in Milan and Naples, with sculptures from the project, titled VBMARMI, appearing at the Venice Biennial. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft’s work. Some see the fashion element as superficial, some see the naked Helmut Newton-esque images of these women as little more than ‘hooters for intellectuals’ (as one review famously dubbed her work). Some say she’s demeaning women, parading them like hunks of meat, in the process creating a male wet dream, while others say she’s reclaiming sexualized images of women from the pages of Penthouse and recontextualising them as symbols of feminist empowerment.


"[MY MODELS] are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. More like self- portraits."


preliminary spreads

“nudity is the ‘urban uniform.’”

vivid/ambitions

photographs by vanessa beecroft


Vanessa Beecroft, born April 25, 1969. Straight after Vanessa was born, the Beecrofts moved to Holland Park, west London. When she was three, her parents separated (Beecroft would not see her father again until she was 15) and her younger brother (currently training to be a judge in Italy) was sent to live with Maria Luisa’s parents in Genoa. She is an Italian contemporary performance artist. She works in the United States and is a contemporary artist whose performances, photographs, and paintings have attracted critical acclaim as well as controversial criticism. Many of her works have made use of professional models, sometimes in large numbers and sometimes naked or nearly so, to stage tableaux vivants. Beecroft’s work often features female models as living art objects that exist somewhere between figure and object, static and dynamic. Much of Beecroft’s work is informed by her personal struggle with an eating disorder and she consistently explores issues of body image and femininity in contemporary culture. Beecroft suffers from what psychiatrists call ‘exercise bulimia’, a compulsive need to burn off unwanted calories using excessive exercise. Her problems with food started with puberty. When she was 12, she started to become a woman and her body began to change. She was devastated because she couldn’t be a boy any more. She lost her boyish look. When she started to become something else, she didn’t know how to keep it together. It was really painful for her - the more you eat, the more like a woman you become. That’s when her obsession with food started. She felt very alone, but now she sees that every woman in her family has an eating disorder.’ At 14, she went to art school in Genoa. In her spare time, she read Vogue (her mother wouldn’t let her read it at home), visited galleries across Italy with her mother and spent weekends with her best friends - three aristocratic, anorexic sisters. For Beecroft, swimming was, until recently, an intoxicating drug. When she was pregnant with with her son, Dean, she insisted - despite the protests of her husband and his mother, a registered dietician - on swimming 100 laps a day to ensure her weight gain was kept to the minimum. She no longer swims, instead practicing ashtanga yoga (‘power yoga’) seven days a week. Without it, she says she would ‘go crazy’. In her teens, she tried unsuccessfully to vomit food she wished she hadn’t eaten - all that saved her from rampant bulimia was her body’s refusal to play ball. The spectre of anorexia haunted her teens and twenties, when she smoked to keep her weight down, attempted crashdieting with amphetamines, undertook damaging fasts, exercised beyond any sensible limits of endurance, and kept a diary - The Book of Food - detailing every single morsel that passed her lips between 1983 and 1993. The anxiety of having eaten something and having it inside and not knowing how big and how much... she thought, “I’m going to write it down and look at it and see if it’s really so much. And one day, I might give it to a doctor so they will analyse if it’s OK.” But then it became an obsession and she wrote down everything she ate. She would go all day thinking, “I ate an apple at 12 o’clock, I must write it down, I mustn’t forget.”’ Even now, a decade after she stopped keeping the food diary, there are still days when she longs to note what she eats, such was the power of this coping mechanism.

viewmorgan coonce


preliminary spreads


"[MY MODELS] are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. More like self- portraits."


preliminary spreads

Beecroft announced herself boldly to the art world in 1993, when she showed The Book of Food. After a professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera Scenografia in Milan, where she studied from 1988 to 1993, invited her to participate in a group show at the city’s Inga-Pin gallery, she adapted what remained of The Book of Food (the first four years of entries were lost by a friend hired to type them up) into a white cube-shaped book. The book, placed in the centre of an empty gallery, was supplemented by a ‘live sculpture’ or ‘live painting’ of 30 girls, consisting of fellow Brera students or girls found on the streets of Milan, who were instructed to move around the space, aloof, numb, dressed in Beecroft’s own clothes - mostly red or yellow (two of Beecroft’s favorite colors). Many of the girls, chosen for their uncanny resemblance to Beecroft, were themselves struggling with eating disorders. On the walls, drawings and watercolors of girls wrestling with eating disorders, primitive brightly colored stick figures (sometimes just an arm or a torso or hair or a leg) reminiscent of sketches by Tracey Emin (all titled VBDW01, VBDW02, VBDW03, the acronym standing for ‘Vanessa Beecroft Drawings and Watercolors’). This first ‘performance’ set the blueprint for Beecroft’s future as a conceptual artist. Since then, she has staged a further 53 performances around the world (all titled VB01, VB02, VB25, VB45, etc), each more elaborate than its predecessor. Earlier performances tended to feature a handful of girls wearing high heels (Beecroft calls heels ‘pedestals’), cheap costumes and wardrobe, allusions to European cinema (films by Fassbinder, Godard, Visconti) and classical painting (Rembrandt, Holbein, della Francesca), and red, yellow or platinum wigs. As budgets grew in proportion to her reputation, she started using professional models, strikingly presented by makeup artists such as Pat McGrath, and wearing clothes and accessories loaned or specially created by fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana, and Manolo Blahnik, all eager to associate themselves with Beecroft’s complex vision (even if Beecroft’s assistant tells me. ‘The fashion in Vanessa’s work is a red herring’ and Beecroft herself says, ‘I don’t follow fashion’) Many of these mutually beneficial artist/designer collaborations (Beecroft gets kudos from the fashion press, the designers get intellectual cachet from the art press) are brokered by Beecroft’s long-term friend/mentor Franca Sozzani, the influential editor of Vogue Italia, who sees a very clear role for fashion in Beecroft’s work.

‘Fashion is important in her performances because she subdues it to her will,’ Sozzani tells me. ‘It’s not important as a logo, trend or status symbol: fashion items are used to underline the woman’s body and to express the concept behind her performances.’ The ‘girls’ (Beecroft’s term for the models) have also become increasingly stripped, to the extent where most performances since VB23 have featured partial or full nudity. These beautiful and disturbing tableaux vivants, which are always staged twice (once for the public, once for photographing and filming: Beecroft’s network of dealers trade in limited-edition photographs and DVD/ video films of each performance) have confounded critics eager for easy categorization, been pronounced ‘dope’ by celebrity fans such as Leonardo DiCaprio, been slated as vapid art/fashion fusion catwalk shows, and enraged older generations of feminists while thrilling the younger. As Maria Elena Buszek, an art historian at the Kansas City Art Institute, explains: ‘Beecroft is the veritable poster-girl for our current, third wave of feminist art history. There’s an ambivalence in her work that is present in the work of many of her contemporaries, which is the result of a culture that has both internalized feminist goals more than any generation that preceded it, and chafes against what it perceives as feminism’s restraints.’ Beecroft’s highly choreographed performance works examine what constitutes the perfect body, as well as the role of context in determining the intricate relationship between viewer and viewed. In her 2011 performance VB67, for example, nude female models were assembled among marble and plaster sculptures, subverting the traditional art viewing experience while emphasizing both the affinities and the stark differences between the living women and the sculptures. Beecroft studied at the Civico Liceo Artistico Nicolo’ Barabino (from 1983 to 1987) and the Accademia Ligustica Di Belle Arti (from 1987 to 1988) in Genoa and the Accademia Di Belle Arti Di Brera (from 1988 to 1993) in Milan. Titling her performances sequentially with her initials, her first performance VB01 took place in Milan in 1993.


"After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft's work." Featured at the center of the exhibition was her own “food diary,” the Book of Food, surrounded by near-motionless female nude models. This presentation became the original archetype for her performances and the exploration of narcissism, voyeurism, politics, eating disorders, the female form, and the female gaze. After arranging her models into a tableau vivant, most of which echo figural arrangements seen in classical Western Art, Beecroft then documented the performance through photography and film. Since VB01, Beecroft has staged over 60 performances at numerous institutions that include the Guggenheim Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1 in New York, NY, the Venice Biennial and Galleria d’Arte Moderna, in Bologna, Italy, as well as the Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. She has collaborated with prominent fashion designers, such as Miuccia Prada and Tom Ford, and most recently with the singer Kanye West. Her latest performance, VB70, took place in 2011 at the Lia Rumma Galleries in Milan and Naples, with sculptures from the project, titled VBMARMI, appearing at the Venice Biennial. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft’s work. Some see the fashion element as superficial, some see the naked Helmut Newton-esque images of these women as little more than ‘hooters for intellectuals’ (as one review famously dubbed her work). Some say she’s demeaning women, parading them like hunks of meat, in the process creating a male wet dream, while others say she’s reclaiming sexualized images of women from the pages of Penthouse and recontextualising them as symbols of feminist empowerment.


preliminary spreads


25 initial designs


VIEWFINDER

initial cover designs

october 2017


issue 03

view

finder


issue 2 // october 2017

VIEWFINDER


issue 2 // october 2017

VIEWFINDER


issue 2 // october 2017


issue 2 // october 2017

featuring vanessa beecroft, ansel adams, susan sontag, and more


viewffiinder

october 2017 // volume 12


october 2017

VIEWFINDER


featuring vanessa beecroft, ansel adams, susan sontag, and more

october 2017 // volume 12

viewfinder


lawrence, kansas the navigation issue

finding your way through the lens issue 17, volume 2

VIEWFINDER a guide to creative photography

$2.75

featuring vanessa beecroft, ansel adams, susan sontag, and more


initial historical photographer spreads


ansel adams


navigating th


he landscape


Ansel Adams (Feb. 20 1902 — Apr. 22, 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup. An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty. His relatively elderly parents, affluent family history, and the live-in presence of his mother’s maiden sister and aged father all combined to create an environment that was decidedly Victorian and both socially and emotionally conservative. Adams’s mother spent much of her time brooding and fretting over her husband’s inability to restore the Adams fortune, leaving an ambivalent imprint on her son. Charles Adams, on the other hand, deeply and patiently influenced, encouraged, and supported his son. When Adams was twelve he taught himself to play the piano and read music. Soon he was taking lessons, and the ardent pursuit of music became his substitute for formal schooling. For the next dozen years the piano was Adams’s primary occupation and, by 1920, his intended profession. Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth. Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography. 1927 was a pivotal year of Adams’s life. He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and took his first High Trip. He then came under the influence of Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and patron of arts. Literally the day after they met, Bender set in motion the preparation and publication of Adams’ first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras [sic]. Bender’s friendship, encouragement, and tactful financial support changed Adams’s life dramatically. His creative energies and abilities as a photographer blossomed, and he began to have the confidence and wherewithal to pursue his dreams. Indeed, Bender’s benign patronage triggered the transformation of a journeyman concert pianist

into the artist whose photographs, as critic Abigail Foerstner wrote in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 3, 1992), “did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer’s epics did for Odysseus.” Although Adams’s transition from musician to photographer did not happen at once, his passion shifted rapidly after Bender came into his life, and the projects and possibilities multiplied. Adams’s star rose rapidly in the early 1930s, propelled in part by his ability and in part by his effusive energy and activity. He made his first visit to New York in 1933, on a pilgrimage to meet photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the artist whose work and philosophy Adams most admired and whose life of commitment to the medium he consciously emulated. Their relationship was intense and their correspondence frequent, rich, and insightful. Although profoundly a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the 1930s and 1940s, and the Stieglitz circle played a vital role in his artistic life. In 1933 the Delphic Gallery gave Adams his first New York show. His first series of technical articles was published in Camera Craft in 1934, and his first widely distributed book, Making a Photograph, appeared in 1935. Most important, in 1936 Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place. Recognition, however, did not alleviate Adams’s financial pressures. In a letter dated 6 August 1935 he wrote Weston, “I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the financial fence.” Adams was compelled to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer. Clients ran the gamut, including the Yosemite concessionaire, the National Park Service, Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT&T, a small women’s college, a dried fruit company, and Life, Fortune, and Arizona Highways magazines — in short, everything from portraits to catalogues to Coloramas. On 2 July 1938 he wrote to friend David McAlpin, “I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work.” Although Adams became an unusually skilled commercial photographer, the work was intermittent, and he constantly worried about paying the next month’s bills. His financial situation remained precarious and a source of considerable stress until late in life.

“I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the ffiinancial fence.” viewffiifinder // 03


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na vigating the landscape Ansel Adams (Feb. 20 1902 — Apr. 22, 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup. An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty. His relatively elderly parents, affluent family history, and the live-in presence of his mother’s maiden sister and aged father all combined to create an environment that was decidedly Victorian and both socially and emotionally conservative. Adams’s mother spent much of her time brooding and fretting over her husband’s inability to restore the Adams fortune, leaving an ambivalent imprint on her son. Charles Adams, on the other hand, deeply and patiently influenced, encouraged, and supported his son. When Adams was twelve he taught himself to play the piano and read music. Soon he was taking lessons, and the ardent pursuit of music became his substitute for formal schooling. For the next dozen years the piano was Adams’s primary occupation and, by 1920, his intended profession. Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth. Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography. 1927 was a pivotal year of Adams’s life. He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and took his first High Trip. He then came under the influence of Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and patron of arts. Literally the day after they met, Bender set in motion the preparation and publication of Adams’ first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras [sic]. Bender’s friendship, encouragement, and tactful financial support changed Adams’s life dramatically. His creative energies and abilities as a photographer blossomed, and he began to have the confidence

and wherewithal to pursue his dreams. Indeed, Bender’s benign patronage triggered the transformation of a journeyman concert pianist into the artist whose photographs, as critic Abigail Foerstner wrote in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 3, 1992), “did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer’s epics did for Odysseus.” Although Adams’s transition from musician to photographer did not happen at once, his passion shifted rapidly after Bender came into his life, and the projects and possibilities multiplied. Adams’s star rose rapidly in the early 1930s, propelled in part by his ability and in part by his effusive energy and activity. He made his first visit to New York in 1933, on a pilgrimage to meet photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the artist whose work and philosophy Adams most admired and whose life of commitment to the medium he consciously emulated. Their relationship was intense and their correspondence frequent, rich, and insightful. Although profoundly a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the 1930s and 1940s, and the Stieglitz circle played a vital role in his artistic life. In 1933 the Delphic Gallery gave Adams his first New York show. His first series of technical articles was published in Camera Craft in 1934, and his first widely distributed book, Making a Photograph, appeared in 1935. Most important, in 1936 Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place. Recognition, however, did not alleviate Adams’s financial pressures. In a letter dated 6 August 1935 he wrote Weston, “I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the financial fence.” Adams was compelled to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer. Clients ran the gamut, including the Yosemite concessionaire, the National Park Service, Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT&T, a small women’s college, a dried fruit company, and Life, Fortune, and Arizona Highways magazines — in short, everything from portraits to catalogues to Coloramas. On 2 July 1938 he wrote to friend David McAlpin, “I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work.” Although Adams became an unusually skilled commercial photographer, the work was intermittent, and he constantly worried about paying the next month’s bills. His financial situation remained precarious and a source of considerable stress until late in life.


“I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the ffiinancial fence.”


ansel adams


“I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the ffiinancial fence.”


na vigating the landscape Ansel Adams (Feb. 20 1902 — Apr. 22, 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup. An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty. His relatively elderly parents, affluent family history, and the live-in presence of his mother’s maiden sister and aged father all combined to create an environment that was decidedly Victorian and both socially and emotionally conservative. Adams’s mother spent much of her time brooding and fretting over her husband’s inability to restore the Adams fortune, leaving an ambivalent imprint on her son. Charles Adams, on the other hand, deeply and patiently influenced, encouraged, and supported his son. When Adams was twelve he taught himself to play the piano and read music. Soon he was taking lessons, and the ardent pursuit of music became his substitute for formal schooling. For the next dozen years the piano was Adams’s primary occupation and, by 1920, his intended profession. Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth. Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography. 1927 was a pivotal year of Adams’s life. He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and took his first High Trip. He then came under the influence of Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and patron of arts. Literally the day after they met, Bender set in motion the preparation and publication of Adams’ first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras [sic]. Bender’s friendship, encouragement, and tactful financial support changed Adams’s life dramatically. His creative energies and abilities as a photographer blossomed, and he began to have the confidence

and wherewithal to pursue his dreams. Indeed, Bender’s benign patronage triggered the transformation of a journeyman concert pianist into the artist whose photographs, as critic Abigail Foerstner wrote in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 3, 1992), “did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer’s epics did for Odysseus.” Although Adams’s transition from musician to photographer did not happen at once, his passion shifted rapidly after Bender came into his life, and the projects and possibilities multiplied. Adams’s star rose rapidly in the early 1930s, propelled in part by his ability and in part by his effusive energy and activity. He made his first visit to New York in 1933, on a pilgrimage to meet photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the artist whose work and philosophy Adams most admired and whose life of commitment to the medium he consciously emulated. Their relationship was intense and their correspondence frequent, rich, and insightful. Although profoundly a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the 1930s and 1940s, and the Stieglitz circle played a vital role in his artistic life. In 1933 the Delphic Gallery gave Adams his first New York show. His first series of technical articles was published in Camera Craft in 1934, and his first widely distributed book, Making a Photograph, appeared in 1935. Most important, in 1936 Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place. Recognition, however, did not alleviate Adams’s financial pressures. In a letter dated 6 August 1935 he wrote Weston, “I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the financial fence.” Adams was compelled to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer. Clients ran the gamut, including the Yosemite concessionaire, the National Park Service, Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT&T, a small women’s college, a dried fruit company, and Life, Fortune, and Arizona Highways magazines — in short, everything from portraits to catalogues to Coloramas. On 2 July 1938 he wrote to friend David McAlpin, “I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work.” Although Adams became an unusually skilled commercial photographer, the work was intermittent, and he constantly worried about paying the next month’s bills. His financial situation remained precarious and a source of considerable stress until late in life.

morgan coonce


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issue 03 // spring 2018

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featuring vanessa beecroft, ansel adams, susan sontag, and more


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spring 2017 volume 3


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spring 2018


volume 3 // spring 2018


PLATO’S CAVE EXCERPT

on photograp Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth. But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. This very insatiability of the photographing eye changes the terms of confinement in the cave, our world. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads -- as an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. In Godard’s Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King’s Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do whatever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, Wonders of Nature, Methods of Transport, Works of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard’s gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image., Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge -- and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of

the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire. Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Photographs, which package the world, seem to invite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and set on tables, tacked on walls, projected as slides. Newspapers and magazines feature them; cops alphabetize them; museums exhibit them; publishers compile them. For many decades the book has been the most influential way of arranging (and usually miniaturizing) photographs, thereby guaranteeing them longevity, if not immortality -- photographs are fragile objects, easily torn or mislaid -- and a wider public. The photograph in a book is, obviously, the image of an image. But since it is, to begin with, a printed, smooth object, a photograph loses much less of its essential quality when reproduced in a book than a painting does. Still, the book is not a wholly satisfactory scheme for putting groups of photographs into general circulation. The sequence in which the photographs are to be looked at is proposed by the order of pages, but nothing holds readers to the recommended order or indicates the amount of time to be spent on each photograph. Chris Marker’s film, Si j’avais quatre dromadaires (1966), a brilliantly orchestrated meditation on photographs of all sorts and themes, suggests a subtler and more rigorous way of packaging (and enlarging) still photographs. Both the order and the exact time for looking at each photograph are imposed; and there is a gain in visual legibility and emotional impact. But photographs transcribed in a film cease to be collectable objects, as they still are when served up in books. Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates. Starting with their use by the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871, photographs became a useful tool of modern states in the surveil-

lance and control of their increasingly mobile populations. In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture. Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of the individual photographer, a photograph -- any photograph -- seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. Virtuosi of the noble image like Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, composing mighty, unforgettable photographs decade after decade, still want, first of all, to show something “out there,” just like the Polaroid owner for whom photographs are a handy, fast form of note-taking, or the shutterbug with a Brownie who takes snapshots as souvenirs of daily life. While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness,

To collect photographs


phy

the work that photographers do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. The immensely gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930s (among them Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film -- the precise expression on the subject’s face that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry. In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are. Those occasions when the taking of photographs is relatively undiscriminating, promiscuous, or self-effacing do not lessen the didacticism of the whole enterprise. This very passivity -- and ubiq-

uity -- of the photographic record is photography’s “message,” its aggression. Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera. This is as evident in the 1840s and 1850s, photography’s glorious first two decades, as in all the succeeding decades, during which technology made possible an ever increasing spread of that mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential photographs. Even for such early masters as David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron who used the camera as a means of getting painterly images, the point of taking photographs was a vast departure from the aims of painters. From its start, photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had so imperial a scope. The subsequent industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images. That age when taking photographs required a cumbersome and expensive contraption

-- the toy of the clever, the wealthy, and the obsessed -- seems remote indeed from the era of sleek pocket cameras that invite anyone to take pictures. The first cameras, made in France and England in the early 1840s, had only inventors and buffs to operate them. Since there were then no professional photographers, there could not be amateurs either, and taking photographs had no clear social use; it was a gratuitous, that is, an artistic activity, though with few pretensions to being an art. It was only with its industrialization that photography came into its own as art. As industrialization provided social uses for the operations of the photographer, so the reaction against these uses reinforced the self-consciousness of photography-as-art.

is to collect the world.


on photogra To collect photographs is to collect the world.


aphy

PLATO’S CAVE EXCERPT

Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth. But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. This very insatiability of the photographing eye changes the terms of confinement in the cave, our world. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads -- as an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. In Godard’s Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King’s Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do whatever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, Wonders of Nature, Methods of Transport, Works of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard’s gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image., Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge -- and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire. Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Photographs, which package the world, seem to invite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and set on tables, tacked on walls, projected as slides. Newspapers and magazines feature them; cops alphabetize them; museums exhibit them; publishers compile them. For many decades the book has been the most influential way of arranging (and usually miniaturizing) photographs, thereby guaranteeing them longevity, if not immortality -- photographs are fragile objects, easily torn or mislaid -- and a wider public. The photograph in a book is, obviously, the image of an image. But since it is, to begin with, a printed, smooth object, a photograph loses much less of its essential quality when reproduced in a book than a painting does. Still, the book is not a wholly satisfactory scheme for putting groups of photographs into general circulation. The sequence in which the photographs are to be looked at is proposed by the order of pages, but nothing holds readers to the recommend-

ed order or indicates the amount of time to be spent on each photograph. Chris Marker’s film, Si j’avais quatre dromadaires (1966), a brilliantly orchestrated meditation on photographs of all sorts and themes, suggests a subtler and more rigorous way of packaging (and enlarging) still photographs. Both the order and the exact time for looking at each photograph are imposed; and there is a gain in visual legibility and emotional impact. But photographs transcribed in a film cease to be collectable objects, as they still are when served up in books. Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates. Starting with their use by the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871, photographs became a useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobile populations. In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture. Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of the individual photographer, a photograph -- any photograph -- seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. Virtuosi of the noble image like Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, composing mighty, unforgettable photographs decade after decade, still want, first of all, to show something “out there,” just like the Polaroid owner for whom photographs are a handy, fast form of note-taking, or the shutterbug with a Brownie who takes snapshots as souvenirs of daily life. While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work that photographers do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. The immensely gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930s (among them Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film -- the precise expression on the subject’s face that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry. In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are. Those occasions when the taking of photographs is relatively undiscriminating, promiscuous, or self-effacing do not lessen the didacticism of the whole enterprise. This very passivity -- and ubiquity -- of the photographic record is photography’s “message,” its aggression. Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera. This is as evident in the 1840s and 1850s, photography’s glorious first two decades, as in all the succeeding decades, during which technology made possible an ever increasing spread of that mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential photographs. Even for such early masters as David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron who used the camera as a means of getting painterly images, the point of taking photographs was a vast departure from the aims of painters. From its start, photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had so imperial a scope. The subsequent industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images. That age when taking photographs required a cumbersome and expensive contraption -- the toy of the clever, the wealthy, and the obsessed -seems remote indeed from the era of sleek pocket cameras that invite anyone to take pictures. The first cameras, made in France and England in the early 1840s, had only inventors and buffs to operate them. Since there were then no professional photographers, there could not be amateurs either, and taking photographs had no clear social use; it was a gratuitous, that is, an artistic activity, though with few pretensions to being an art. It was only with its industrialization that photography came into its own as art. As industrialization provided social uses for the operations of the photographer, so the reaction against these uses reinforced the self-consciousness of photography-as-art.


To collect photographs is to collect the world.

on ph


PLATO’S CAVE EXCERPT Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth. But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. This very insatiability of the photographing eye changes the terms of confinement in the cave, our world. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads -- as an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. In Godard’s Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King’s Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do whatever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, Wonders of Nature, Methods of Transport, Works of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard’s gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image., Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge -- and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire. Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Photographs, which package the world, seem to invite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and

set on tables, tacked on walls, projected as slides. Newspapers and magazines feature them; cops alphabetize them; museums exhibit them; publishers compile them. For many decades the book has been the most influential way of arranging (and usually miniaturizing) photographs, thereby guaranteeing them longevity, if not immortality -- photographs are fragile objects, easily torn or mislaid -- and a wider public. The photograph in a book is, obviously, the image of an image. But since it is, to begin with, a printed, smooth object, a photograph loses much less of its essential quality when reproduced in a book than a painting does. Still, the book is not a wholly satisfactory scheme for putting groups of photographs into general circulation. The sequence in which the photographs are to be looked at is proposed by the order of pages, but nothing holds readers to the recommended order or indicates the amount of time to be spent on each photograph. Chris Marker’s film, Si j’avais quatre dromadaires (1966), a brilliantly orchestrated meditation on photographs of all sorts and themes, suggests a subtler and more rigorous way of packaging (and enlarging) still photographs. Both the order and the exact time for looking at each photograph are imposed; and there is a gain in visual legibility and emotional impact. But photographs transcribed in a film cease to be collectable objects, as they still are when served up in books. Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates. Starting with their use by the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871, photographs became a useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobile populations. In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture. Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of the individual photographer, a photograph -- any photograph -- seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. Virtuosi of the noble image like Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, composing mighty, unforgettable photographs decade after decade, still want, first of all, to show something “out there,” just like the Polaroid owner for whom photographs are a handy, fast form of note-taking, or the shutterbug with a Brownie who takes snapshots as souvenirs of daily life. While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work that photographers

do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. The immensely gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930s (among them Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film -- the precise expression on the subject’s face that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry. In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are. Those occasions when the taking of photographs is relatively undiscriminating, promiscuous, or self-effacing do not lessen the didacticism of the whole enterprise. This very passivity -- and ubiquity -- of the photographic record is photography’s “message,” its aggression. Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera. This is as evident in the 1840s and 1850s, photography’s glorious first two decades, as in all the succeeding decades, during which technology made possible an ever increasing spread of that mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential photographs. Even for such early masters as David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron who used the camera as a means of getting painterly images, the point of taking photographs was a vast departure from the aims of painters. From its start, photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had so imperial a scope. The subsequent industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images. That age when taking photographs required a cumbersome and expensive contraption -- the toy of the clever, the wealthy, and the obsessed -- seems remote indeed from the era of sleek pocket cameras that invite anyone to take pictures. The first cameras, made in France and England in the early 1840s, had only inventors and buffs to operate them. Since there were then no professional photographers, there could not be amateurs either, and taking photographs had no clear social use; it was a gratuitous, that is, an artistic activity, though with few pretensions to being an art. It was only with its industrialization that photography came into its own as art. As industrialization provided social uses for the operations of the photographer, so the reaction against these uses reinforced the self-consciousness of photography-as-art.

hotography


COLOPHON Viewfinder was designed by Morgan Coonce for Typographic Systems, 2017. All of the images and text were sourced from publications from the internet and are only being used for design education purposes. Fonts: futura pt, market deco, Orator. Printed at Jayhawk Ink in Lawrence Kansas.


final magazine

131


the navigation issue

lawrence, kansas finding your way through the lens issue 2, volume 3

$2.75

featuring vanessa beecroft, ansel adams, susan sontag, and more


VIEWFINDER

spring 2017 volume 3


VANESSA B anse COLOPHON

Viewfinder was designed by Morgan Coonce for Typographic Systems, 2017. All of the images and text were sourced from publications from the internet and are only being used for design education purposes. Fonts: futura pt, market deco, Orator. Printed at Jayhawk Ink in Lawrence Kansas.

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you don’t take a photograph, you make it.

-ansel adams

BEECROFT el adams viewfiffiinder

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ontent viewfiffiinder

4


intro............................2-3 Vivid Ambitions..................6-15 Navigating the landscape.........16-23 On photography...................24-25

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Vivid A

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mbitions

article by morgan coonce

Vanessa Beecroft, born April 25, 1969. Straight after Vanessa was born, the Beecrofts moved to Holland Park, west London. When she was three, her parents separated (Beecroft would not see her father again until she was 15) and her younger brother (currently training to be a judge in Italy) was sent to live with Maria Luisa’s parents in Genoa. She is an Italian contemporary performance artist. She works in the United States and is a contemporary artist whose performances, photographs, and paintings have attracted critical acclaim as well as controversial criticism. Many of her works have made use of professional models, sometimes in large numbers and sometimes naked or nearly so, to stage tableaux vivants. Beecroft’s work often features female models as living art objects that exist somewhere between figure and object, static and dynamic. Much of Beecroft’s work is informed by her personal struggle with an eating disorder and she consistently explores issues of body image and femininity in contemporary culture. Beecroft suffers from what psychiatrists call ‘exercise bulimia’, a compulsive need to burn off unwanted calories using excessive exercise. Her problems with food started with puberty. When she was 12, she started to become a woman and her body began

vanessa beecroft vb50 (2002)

to change. She was devastated because she couldn’t be a boy any more. She lost her boyish look. When she started to become something else, she didn’t know how to keep it together. It was really painful for her - the more you eat, the more like a woman you become. That’s when her obsession with food started. She felt very alone, but now she sees that every woman in her family has an eating disorder.’ At 14, she went to art school in Genoa. In her spare time, she read Vogue (her mother wouldn’t let her read it at home), visited galleries across Italy with her mother and spent weekends with her best friends - three aristocratic, anorexic sisters. For Beecroft, swimming was, until recently, an intoxicating drug. When she was pregnant with with her son, Dean, she insisted - despite the protests of her husband and his mother, a registered dietician - on swimming 100 laps a day to ensure her weight gain was kept to the minimum. Today, she no longer swims, instead practicing ashtanga yoga (‘power yoga’) seven days a week. Without it, she says she would ‘go crazy’. In her teens, she tried unsuccessfully to vomit food she wished she hadn’t eaten - all that saved her from rampant bulimia was her body’s refusal to play ball. The spectre of anorexia haunted her teens and twenties, too, when she smoked to keep her weight down, attempted crash-dieting with amphetamines, undertook damaging fasts, exercised beyond any sensible limits of endurance, and kept a diary - The Book of Food - detailing every single morsel that passed her lips between 1983 and 1993. The anxiety of having eaten something and having it inside and not knowing how big and how much... she thought, “I’m going to write it down and look at it and see if it’s really so much. And one day, I might give it to a doctor so they will analyse if it’s OK.” But then it became an obsession and she wrote down everything she ate. She would go all day thinking, “I ate an apple at 12 o’clock, I must write it down, I mustn’t forget.”’ Even now, a decade after she stopped keeping the food diary, there are still days when she longs to note what she eats, such was the power of this coping mechanism.

7


"After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft's work."

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vanessa beecroft - vb68 (2011)

photographs by vanessa beecroft

Beecroft announced herself boldly to the art world in 1993, when she showed The Book of Food. After a professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera Scenografia in Milan, where she studied from 1988 to 1993, invited her to participate in a group show at the city’s Inga-Pin gallery, she adapted what remained of The Book of Food (the first four years of entries were lost by a friend hired to type them up) into a white cube-shaped book. The book, placed in the centre of an empty gallery, was supplemented by a ‘live sculpture’ or ‘live painting’ of 30 girls, consisting of fellow Brera students or girls found on the streets of Milan, who were instructed to move around the space, aloof, numb, dressed in Beecroft’s own clothes - mostly red or yellow (two of Beecroft’s favorite colors). Many of the girls, chosen for their uncanny resemblance to Beecroft, were themselves struggling with eating disorders. On the walls, drawings and watercolors of girls wrestling with eating disorders, primitive brightly colored stick figures (sometimes just an arm or a torso or hair or a leg) reminiscent of sketches by Tracey Emin (all chronologically titled VBDW01, VBDW02, VBDW03, the acronym standing for ‘Vanessa Beecroft Drawings and Watercolors’). This first ‘performance’ set the blueprint for Beecroft’s future as a conceptual artist. Since then, she has staged a further 53 performances around the world (all titled VB01, VB02, VB25, VB45, etc), each more elaborate than its predecessor. Earlier performances tended to feature a handful of girls wearing high heels (Beecroft calls heels ‘pedestals’), cheap costumes and wardrobe, allusions to European cinema (films by Fassbinder, Godard, Visconti) and classical painting (Rembrandt, Holbein, della Francesca), and red, yellow or platinum wigs. As budgets grew in proportion to her reputation, she started using professional models, strikingly presented by make-up artists such as Pat McGrath, and wearing clothes and accessories loaned or specially created by fashion designers such as Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana, and Manolo Blahnik, all eager to associate themselves with Beecroft’s complex vision (even if Beecroft’s assistant tells me ‘The fashion in Vanessa’s work is a red herring’ and Beecroft herself says, ‘I don’t follow fashion’).

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vanessa beecroft vb74 (2014)


vanessa beecroft x yeezy (2016)

Many of these mutually beneficial artist/designer collaborations (Beecroft gets kudos from the fashion press, the designers get intellectual cachet from the art press) are brokered by Beecroft’s long-term friend/mentor Franca Sozzani, the influential editor of Vogue Italia, who sees a very clear role for fashion in Beecroft’s work. ‘Fashion is important in her performances because she subdues it to her will,’ Sozzani tells me. ‘It’s not important as a logo, trend or status symbol: fashion items are used to underline the woman’s body and to express the concept behind her performances.’ The ‘girls’ (Beecroft’s term for the models) have also become increasingly stripped, to the extent where most performances since VB23 have featured partial or full nudity. These beautiful and disturbing tableaux vivants, which are always staged twice (once for the public, once for photographing and filming: Beecroft’s network of dealers trade in limited-edition photographs and DVD/video films of each performance) have confounded critics eager for easy categorization, been pronounced ‘dope’ by celebrity fans such as Leonardo DiCaprio, been slated as vapid art/fashion fusion catwalk shows, and enraged older generations of feminists while thrilling the younger. As Maria Elena Buszek, an art historian at the Kansas City Art Institute, explains: ‘Beecroft is the veritable poster-girl for our current, third wave of feminist art history. There’s an ambivalence in her work that is present in the work of many of her contemporaries, which is the result of a culture that has both internalized feminist goals more than any generation that preceded it, and chafes against what it perceives as feminism’s restraints.’ Beecroft’s highly choreographed performance works examine what constitutes the perfect body, as well as the role of context in determining the intricate relationship between viewer and viewed. In her 2011 performance VB67, for example, nude female models were assembled among marble and plaster sculptures, subverting the traditional art viewing experience while emphasizing both the affinities and the stark differences between the living women and the sculptures. Beecroft studied at the Civico Liceo Artistico Nicolo’ Barabino

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" vanessa beecroft x tod’s - VB handmade 2016


(from 1983 to 1987) and the Accademia Ligustica Di Belle Arti (from 1987 to 1988) in Genoa and the Accademia Di Belle Arti Di Brera (from 1988 to 1993) in Milan. Titling her performances sequentially with her initials, her first performance VB01 took place in Milan in 1993. Featured at the center of the exhibition was her own “food diary,” the Book of Food, surrounded by near-motionless female nude models. This presentation became the original archetype for her performances and the exploration of narcissism, voyeurism, politics, eating disorders, the female form, and the female gaze. After arranging her models into a tableau vivant, most of which echo figural arrangements seen in classical Western Art, Beecroft then documented the performance through photography and film. Since VB01, Beecroft has staged over 60 performances at numerous institutions that include the Guggenheim Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1 in New York, NY, the Venice Biennial and Galleria d’Arte Moderna, in Bologna, Italy, as well as the Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. She has collaborated with prominent fashion designers, such as Miuccia Prada and Tom Ford, and most recently with the singer Kanye West. Her latest performance, VB70, took place in 2011 at the Lia Rumma Galleries in Milan and Naples, with sculptures from the project, titled VBMARMI, appearing at the Venice Biennial. She now lives and works in Los Angeles, California. After 54 performances, many remain unsure what to make of Beecroft’s work. Some see the fashion element as superficial, some see the naked Helmut Newton-esque images of these women as little more than ‘hooters for intellectuals’ (as one review famously dubbed her work). Some say she’s demeaning women, parading them like hunks of meat, in the process creating a male wet dream, while others say she’s reclaiming sexualized images of women and recontextualising them as symbols of feminist empowerment.

"nudity is the urban viewfiffiinder

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black madonna with twins 4 (2006)

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"[my models] are vulnerable, not so stylized, not so beautifully perfect and refined. more like selfportraits."

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A A

n

s A

D


s

e

l S

M tetons and snake river, 1942


V a N

ansel adams

18

I G

a

t

N I

G


l the

a N

d c s

a p

e

MOrgan coonce Ansel Adams (Feb. 20 1902 — Apr. 22, 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’ father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup. An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty. His relatively elderly parents, affluent family history, and the live-in presence of his mother’s maiden sister and aged father all combined to create an environment that was decidedly Victorian and both socially and emotionally conservative. Adams’s mother spent much of her time brooding and fretting over her husband’s inability to restore the Adams fortune, leaving an ambivalent imprint on her son. Charles Adams, on the other hand, deeply and patiently influenced, encouraged, and supported his son. When Adams was twelve he taught himself to play the piano and read music. Soon he was taking lessons, and the ardent pursuit of music became his substitute for formal schooling. For the next dozen years the piano was Adams’s primary occupation and, by 1920, his intended profession. Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth. Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography. 1927 was a pivotal year of Adams’s life. He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and took his first High Trip. He then came under the influence of Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance magnate and patron of arts. Literally the day after they met, Bender set in motion the preparation and publication of Adams’ first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras [sic]. Bender’s friendship, encouragement, and tactful financial support changed Adams’s life dramatically. His creative energies and abilities as a photographer blossomed, and he began to have the confidence and wherewithal to pursue his dreams. Indeed, Bender’s benign patronage triggered the transformation of a journeyman concert pianist into the artist whose photographs, as critic Abigail Foerstner wrote in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 3, 1992), “did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer’s epics did for Odysseus.” Although Adams’s transition from musician to photographer did not happen at once, his passion shifted rapidly after Bender came into his life, and the projects and possibilities multiplied. Adams’s star rose rapidly in the early 1930s, propelled in part by his ability and in part by his effusive energy and activity. He made his first visit to New York in 1933, on a pilgrimage to meet photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the artist whose work and philosophy

Adams most admired and whose life of commitment to the medium he consciously emulated. Their relationship was intense and their correspondence frequent, rich, and insightful. Although profoundly a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the 1930s and 1940s, and the Stieglitz circle played a vital role in his artistic life. In 1933 the Delphic Gallery gave Adams his first New York show. His first series of technical articles was published in Camera Craft in 1934, and his first widely distributed book, Making a Photograph, appeared in 1935. Most important, in 1936 Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place. Recognition, however, did not alleviate Adams’s financial pressures. In a letter dated 6 August 1935 he wrote Weston, “I have been busy, but broke. Can’t seem to climb over the financial fence.” Adams was compelled to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer. Clients ran the gamut, including the Yosemite concessionaire, the National Park Service, Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT&T, a small women’s college, a dried fruit company, and Life, Fortune, and Arizona Highways magazines — in short, everything from portraits to catalogues to Coloramas. On 2 July 1938 he wrote to friend David McAlpin, “I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work.” Although Adams became an unusually skilled commercial photographer, the work was intermittent, and he constantly worried about paying the next month’s bills. His financial situation remained precarious and a source of considerable stress until late in life.

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jeffrey pine, 1940

ansel adams

fragile waters

arizona highways

aspens

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mt. mckinley and wonder lake

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evening, mcdonald lake, glacier national park, 1942

“I have been busy, but broke. I can’t seem to climb over the financial fence.”


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susan sontag

on photog BY SUSAN SONTAG

To collect photographs is to collect

“

the world.

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PLATO’S CAVE EXCERPT

graphy Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth. But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. This very insatiability of the photographing eye changes the terms of confinement in the cave, our world. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads - as an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. In Godard’s Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King’s Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do whatever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, Wonders of Nature, Methods of Transport, Works of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard’s gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image. Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge - and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire. Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Photographs, which package the world, seem to invite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and set on tables, tacked on walls, projected as slides. Newspapers and magazines feature them; cops alphabetize them; museums exhibit them; publishers compile them. For many decades the book has been the most influential way of arranging (and usually miniaturizing) photographs, thereby guaranteeing them longevity, if not immortality - photographs are fragile objects, easily torn or mislaid - and a wider public. The photograph in a book is, obviously, the image of an image. But since it is, to begin with, a printed, smooth object, a photograph loses much less of its essential quality when reproduced in a book than a painting does. Still, the book is not a wholly satisfactory scheme for putting groups of photographs into general circulation. The sequence in which the photographs are to be looked at is proposed by the order of pages, but nothing holds readers to the recommended order or indicates the amount of time to be spent on each photograph. Chris Mark-

er’s film, Si j’avais quatre dromadaires (1966), a brilliantly orchestrated meditation on photographs of all sorts and themes, suggests a subtler and more rigorous way of packaging (and enlarging) still photographs. Both the order and the exact time for looking at each photograph are imposed; and there is a gain in visual legibility and emotional impact. But photographs transcribed in a film cease to be collectable objects, as they still are when served up in books. Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates. Starting with their use by the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871, photographs became a useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobile populations. In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture. Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of the individual photographer, a photograph - any photograph - seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. Virtuosi of the noble image like Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, composing mighty, unforgettable photographs decade after decade, still want, first of all, to show something “out there,” just like the Polaroid owner for whom photographs are a handy, fast form of note-taking, or the shutterbug with a Brownie who takes snapshots as souvenirs of daily life. While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work that photographers do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. The immensely gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930s (among them Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film the precise expression on the subject’s face that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry. In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are. Those occasions when the taking of photographs is relatively undiscriminating, promiscuous, or self-effacing do not lessen the didacticism of the whole enterprise. This very passivity - and ubiquity - of the photographic record is photography’s “message,” its aggression. Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera. This is as evident in the 1840s and 1850s, photography’s glorious first two decades, as in all the succeeding decades, during which technology made possible an ever increasing spread of that mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential photographs. Even for early masters such as David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron who used the camera to get painterly images, the point of taking photographs was a vast departure from the aims of painters. From its start, photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had so imperial a scope. The subsequent industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images. That age when taking photographs required a cumbersome and expensive contraption -- the toy of the clever, the wealthy, and the obsessed -- seems remote indeed from the era of sleek pocket cameras that invite anyone to take pictures. The first cameras, made in France and England in the early 1840s, had only inventors and buffs to operate them. Since there were then no professional photographers, there could not be amateurs either, and taking photographs had no clear social use; it was a gratuitous, that is, an artistic activity, though with few pretensions to being an art. It was only with its industrialization that photography came into its own as art. As industrialization provided social uses for the operations of the photographer, so the reaction against these uses reinforced the self-consciousness of photography-as-art.

viewfiffiinder 25


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