Monday, January 13, 2020

ILLUSIONS of the PHOTOGRAPHER: DUANE MICHALS at the MORGAN: Review By Polly Guerin

Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara
Contemplative, confessional and comedic the six-decade retrospective of photographer, Duane Michals, ILLUSIONS OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER at the Morgan Library & Museum, transcends the  conventional audience of photography and is an emotional tour de force.
       On view through February 2, 2020 the exhibition features the artist's choice selection of works from all corners of the permanent collection.  The exhibition takes viewers on a tour of the artist's mind, putting work from his expansive career in conversation with Old Masters and modern drawings, books, manuscripts, and historical Objects. Imge:
Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkaram 1978, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2018.42 (c) Duane Michals, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York.
       A storyteller, Michals is known his picture sequences, inscribed photographs, and more recently films that pose emotional, conceptual  and cosmic questions beyond the scope of the lone camera. Since the early 1960's, Michals worked past what he sees as the limitation of the camera. He writes in the margins of his prints, creates sequences of images that explore intangible human
dilemmas (doubt, mortality, desire), and derives poetic effects from technical errors such as double exposure and motion blur.
     
A Letter From  My Father 1960-1975
In this first retrospective on Michals to be mounted by a New York City institution, the exhibition is organized around animating themes in the artist's work: Theater, Reflection, Love and Desire, Playtime, Image and Word, Nature, Immortality, Time, Death and Illusion. It showcases his storytelling instincts both in stand-alone staged photographs and in sequences Image: Duane Michals A Letter From My Father 1960-1975. Gelatin silver print. The Morgan Library & Museum. Gift of Duane Michals, 2019.78 (c) Duane Michals, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York. 
       For Michals photography is not documentary in nature, but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensive version of reality In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium's storytelling capacity. For example, the six images in I Build a Pyramid (1978) find the artist in Egypt, staking stones in a modest pile that, from the camera's perspective appears to reveal the scale of the ancient pharaoh's monument. Michals reveals that the scenario echoes his childhood habit of  building stones in his backyard in McKeesport, Pennsuylvania  
      
A Story About A Story 1989
In the exhibition, Michals staged scenes are juxtaposed with those of his creative heroes, who include William Blake, Edward Lear, and Saul Steinberg. In his dual role as artist and curator he matches wits with writers, stage designers, toy makers, and his fellow portraitists of the past an present. Image: Duane Michals
A Story about A Story, 1989 The Morgan Library & Museum, 2018.47 . (c) Duane Michals, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York. 
      Since 2015 Michals has focused his creative efforts on filmmaking, a natural outgrowth of his directional habits as a photographer.  On a screen in the exhibition, three short films are featured amid a cycle of over 200 photographs  from the series
Empty New York (1964-65), the project through which the artist first recognized his theatrical vision of reality. Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals is accompanied  by a 88-page soft-cover catalog featuring a wise ranging interview with the artist and illustrations of seventy works, including his selections from the Morgan's collection and the previously unpublished 1969 title sequence.
      TA TA DARLINGS!!! Just to on view till February 2, it's time to view Duane Michals artistic storytelling in photographs to amuse, entertain, and bewilder. Fan mail pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's other Blogs visionary men, women determined to succeed, fashion historian and poetry at www.pollytalk.com, click on the links in the left-hand column.

1 comment:

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