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Printed light: photographic vision and the modern print
31 July – 7 November 2004

Introduction | Essay | Gallery | Exhibited works

 

 

Richard HAMILTON born Great Britain 1922 Mother and child (1984), England, London intaglio

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Richard Hamilton
Mother and child(1984)

Hamilton’s quirky Mother and child 1984, is based on a family photograph shown to him by a young Italian lithographer in order to ease the embarrassment that both of them felt because neither could speak the other’s language.  It is a photograph he insisted on giving to Hamilton who turned it into a series of paintings and prints of oddly banal tenderness.

 

Eduardo Paolozzi 'Real gold' 1950-72 Stencil Collection of the National Gallery of Australia

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Eduardo Paolozzi
Real gold (1950-72)

Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the artists at the forefront of English Pop art in the 1960s, cannibalised photographic imagery that he had collected over a 20-year period from a variety of popular ‘low-art’ sources such as magazines, films, posters, advertisements and sci-fi comics.  These images were used to produce his famous 45-piece work Bunk 1972.  Given its title, Paolozzi was clearly conscious of its contemporary, historical significance.  Bunk humorously and ironically documents post-World War II society’s new obsessions: with consumerism; with the scientific exploration of space; with a new kind of celebrity based on television; and the emerging cultural domination of America.

 

James E Allen born United States 1894 - died 1964 The builders (1932), United States of America, New York, New York intaglio

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James E Allen
The builders (1932)

The social-realist tradition is a very significant part of American art of the first half of the 20th century. While photography became the dominant means of social documentation during this period, there were many artists who worked off this photographic tradition to produce powerful print works in their own right.  James Allen’s The builders 1932, either directly borrows from, or echoes, Lewis Hines’ photographs of the construction of the Empire State Building.  It is consciously photo-documentary in terms of its frozen action and the portrayal of social types.

 

Chuck Close 'Test proof for Keith/mezzotint lettered L' 1972, Intaglio Collection of the National Gallery of Australia

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Chuck Close
Keith (L) 1972

When it comes to portraiture, the contemporary practitioner of photorealism par excellence is undoubtedly Chuck Close. As is clear from this image, reality for close is the photograph. So we see the tiny photographic distortions, the shallowness of focus, the reflection of the photographer’s lights, the blurred edges, all in their hyper-real, hyper-enlarged painted or printed glory. Keith (L) is one of the stage proofs from the portfolio The Chuck Close mezzotint “Keith” 1972 which was produced by Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press in Oakland, California. At the time it was one of the biggest mezzotints ever printed, measuring 113.0 x 89.5 cms in its final state.

 

24.2 x 17.8; 66.6 x 51.2 cm

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Peter Blake
"For instance, now there's the King’s messenger..." 1970

Peter Blake came to prominence in the 1960’s from the English Pop art group of artists.  He used images from a range of popular sources to create colourful works that capture the flavour of the 'swinging sixties'.  Well this is grand! Said Alice is one of the wonderful photographically based illustrations to Alice in Wonderland.  Much of Blake’s art reflects his affection and nostalgia for the popular culture of his childhood.  His use of colour and photography helps create a sense of mystery that attracts the viewer to the works. 

 

Richard Estes No title [Grant's] 1972 Collection of the National Gallery of Australia

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Richard Estes
No title [Grant’s] 1972

Richard Estes mines the hyper-realist photographic possibilities of his adopted New York urban landscape. Close scrutiny of Estes’s work, however, reveals that this is a strangely static, synthetic and sanitised account of New York — there are no people, no trash, no rain, no decay. And perhaps this brings us to the realisation that Estes’s rarefied, motionless and emotionless, hyper-crisp, people-less uniformity has more to do with minimalism and conceptual art than it has to do with landscape painting.

 

Peter BLAKE born Great Britain 1932 Leo 79 [38/75] 1969 Stencil

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Peter Blake
Leo 79 [38/75] 1969

These photo-silkscreen images were appropriated from 19th-century postcard erotica.  The status of these works remains profoundly ambiguous simply because they are presented as found objects, contextually dispossessed, unglossed and uninflected, apart from the fact that they have been enlarged. We are also faced with the contradiction of works that so clearly appear to be photographs, but which, in fact, are not.

 

Robert BECHTLE born United States 1932 Sunset Street 1982, United States of America, California Intaglio

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Robert Bechtle
Sunset Street 1982

Robert Bechtle’s Sunset Street 1982 exhibits a quality that seems to undermine its photorealist origins.  If the supreme achievement of photography is its capacity to fix the fleeting and the ephemeral forever, in Bechtle’s work, particularly his west-coast street-scenes and his automobile ‘portraits’, there is a sense of unearthly stillness – a feeling that the moment depicted is the same as the preceding moment, and the moment that preceded it will, in turn, be identical to the one that follows. Bechtle’s work has little to do with capturing the fleeting, and has, in fact, a lot to do with depicting the forever.

 

Joe TILSON born Great Britain 1928 Transparency, Clip-O-Matic Lips 1967, England, London Stencil; mixed media

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Joe Tilson
Transparency, Clip-O-Matic Lips 1967

Joe Tilson belongs to the generation of British artists — including Peter Blake and David Hockney — who were experimenting with screen printing.  Originally associated with the British Pop Art movement in the early 1960s, his imagery was drawn from newspaper photography, the media and iconic personalities of the decade.  Tilson saw the sixties as a moment of breaking through into colour, in particular the colours found in comics, advertising and fashion.

 

Richard HAMILTON born Great Britain 1922 A dedicated follower of fashion 1980 intaglio Collection of the National Gallery of Australia

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Richard Hamilton
A dedicated follower of fashion 1980

Richard Hamilton was particularly concerned with the photographic image and pop culture.  In A dedicated follower of fashion, the central image is based on a photograph Hamilton picked out of a wastepaper bin while visiting a photographic company in Hamburg in 1969, while its title was appropriated from the song by The Kinks.  This can be seen as part of Hamilton’s continuous exploration of the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.

 

Eduardo Paolozzi, 'You can't beat the real thing' (1972), Stencil

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Eduardo Paolozzi
You can't beat the real thing (1972)

Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the artists at the forefront of English Pop art in the 1960s, cannibalised photographic imagery that he had collected over a 20-year period from a variety of popular ‘low-art’ sources such as magazines, films, posters, advertisements and sci-fi comics.  These images were used to produce his famous 45-piece work Bunk 1972.  Given its title, Paolozzi was clearly conscious of its contemporary, historical significance.  Bunk humorously and ironically documents post-World War II society’s new obsessions: with consumerism; with the scientific exploration of space; with a new kind of celebrity based on television; and the emerging cultural domination of America.

 

Jennifer BARTLETT born United States 1941 Untitled II (1979) Relief

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Jennifer Bartlett
Untitled II (1979)

The grid like structures, as seen in Untitled I, II, III [Graceland] 1979, dominates most of Jennifer Bartlett’s early work This work has strong affinities with Sol Lewitt’s systems-orientated art.  But, Bartlett would also violate the systems when it suited her.  Here, Bartlett uses the grid to echo Monet’s Haystacks, while also making reference to Elvis Presley’s ‘Graceland’, to whom she was paying homage.  While the formal mechanisms of Graceland are significantly different those of Monet, the underlying structures appear similar, as if Bartlett is referring to an x-ray that exposes the skeleton of Monet’s Haystacks.