At its new, second location at 122 Grant Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501, Andrew Smith Gallery opens an exhibit of classic photographs by ALFRED STIEGLITZ, EDWARD STEICHEN and GERTRUDE KASEBIER on Thursday, June 22, 2007. Also on display at the new gallery are works by Ansel Adams, Alan Ross, Jody Forster, Christopher Burkett, Joan Myers, Paul Caponigro, and William Henry Jackson.

Visit us to view masterworks by Edward Weston, Elliott Erwitt, Walker Evans, Annie Leibovitz, Jack Spencer, Barbara Van Cleve, Flor Garduño, Laura Gilpin, and other classic and contemporary photographers.

ALFRED STIEGLITZ (1864-1946)

Alfred Stiegltiz's influence on photography is almost incalculable. He championed the American and European modernist movements, published the most influential photographic journals of the era, and convinced the world that photography was a valid form of artistic expression, equal to painting and sculpture.

Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Gertrude Kasebier were legendary for their spectacular soft focus images made as non-silver prints or photogravures. By 1903 all three were at the peak of their visual powers and printmaking skills, and all were published in the early issues of Stieglitz's legendary publication Camera Work.

Around the turn of the century, Stieglitz adapted his photographs to reflect the dynamic energy of New York's streets, the geometry of its skyscrapers, immigrant laden ferry boats, and locomotives steaming toward a purposeful future. By the time he had published the final volume of Camera Work in 1916, containing the work of Paul Strand who was an advocate of straight photography, Stiegltiz's early pictorial masterpieces such as The Hand of Man, The Terminal, The Steerage, and The Street-Design for a Poster, were considered old fashioned, even sentimental.

Long before he met and married Georgia O'Keeffe, Stieglitz championed photography's independence as a creative art form. While he accepted the heavily retouched work of his fellow Secessionists, he himself mostly avoided manipulation of his images. Instead he used atmospheric effects of rain, snow, mist and smoke. The following photographs on exhibit illustrate this.

"The Street - Design for a Poster," 1902 is a photogravure on tissue, mounted on a rectangle of blue linen. It was originally part of the July 1903 volume of Camera Work. The attention to detail in the mounting and use of transparent papers and linen shows the care Stieglitz gave to hand tipping his photogravures.

"Two Towers - New York," 1913 appeared in the Camera Work: Oct. 1913 issue. Taken in winter, the photograph shows a man walking on a snow covered street in New York City. In the foreground is an ornamental iron railing and a tree are covered in several inches of fresh snow. Two hazy skyscrapers loom in the distance. Stieglitz printed this photogravure in a greenish-black ink, a color which helps to soften the image and enhance its wintry feeling.

"The Hand of Man," 1902, is one of Stieglitz's most powerful images and an icon of 20th century photography. It shows a steam locomotive pulling into the Long Island freight yard over a silvery network of tracks. A champion of things new, modern and ambitious, Stieglitz describes in this photograph the exhilarating power of the machine in the Age of Industry. This oversize photogravure measuring 9.5 x 12.5" was made by Stieglitz in a very small edition and inscribed to the painter, Emil C. Zoler, who worked at three of Stieglitz's New York galleries and was part of his Lake George circle.

Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934)

A creative and independent woman, Gertrude Kasebier defied the conventions of her 19th century upbringing by opening her own photography studio at age thirty-six. Following an unsatisfactory marriage and raising three children, she went on to become one of the most famous photographers of her time, praised for her powerful portraits of such notables as August Rodin, and her symbolically complex interpretations of the theme of motherhood. She was one of the founding members of the Photo-Secession group of whom Stieglitz was the leader.

Motherhood and portraiture were Kasebier's favorite themes. She helped elevate the photographic portrait to the status of an art form. On exhibit is a signed portrait of the sensational teenage beauty of the era, Evelyn Nesbit, titled "Portrait (Miss N.") ca. 1903.

Kasebier's best photograph, "Blessed Art Thou Among Women," ca. 1903, printed on tissue, originally appeared in the Jan. 1903 issue of Camera Work. The photograph depicts a woman dressed in flowing robes standing at the threshold of a door next to a young girl wearing a dark dress and stockings. On the wall behind them is a framed artwork depicting The Visitation.

Kasebier's title refers to the Biblical "visitation," in which Mary and Elizabeth, both pregnant, meet and embrace. Kasebier reworked the Christian theme with a slight twist. Here the sacred child is a daughter rather than a son. The mother's gauzy white gown relates her to classic images of the feminine. In contrast, the daughter's short dress with its bold belt buckle, along with her boyish haircut and necktie suggest that her life is destined to be more active and independent. In this profound image of feminine evolution, a mother lovingly sends her daughter into the future with the blessings of the old feminine, but equipped with enough independence to forge a new identity.

Alfred Stieglitz admired Kasebier's photographs for their independent artistic expression and promoted them in his publication Camera Notes. He also organized solo exhibitions of her work at the Camera Club of New York. The first issue of Camera Work, released in 1902, contained six illustrations and two articles by her. Her photographs were exhibited internationally and garnered high praise. Around the turn of the century her print of "The Manger" sold for $100, the most ever paid for a photograph at that time. A rare, signed example of this photogravure is on exhibit at Andrew Smith Gallery,

Edward Steichen (1879-1983)

Edward Steichen, along with Alfred Stieglitz, led an aesthetic revolution that helped to shift photography from being merely a documentary record to an art form capable of interpretation and expression. During his long life Steichen was a successful artist, recognized for his elegant pictorialist photographs and tonalist studies of moonlit landscapes. He was also a fashion photographer, curator, writer, and technical innovator. Influenced by the abstract concerns of European Modernism, he gradually became interested in straight photography that emphasized pure design and strong compositions. Yet his early Pictorial photographs filled with soft focused, painterly effects are some of his finest work. Later in life, as director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, Steichen organized an exhibit of 503 photographs called The Family of Man, one of the most famous of all photography exhibitions.

For his photograph titled "Balzac - The Open Sky," ca. 1911, Steichen shot Rodin's sculpture of the great French writer from a low vantage point. Highlighted on the left and in shadow on the right, the statue looms like a great cocoon against an empty expanse of space of sky. The photogravure, which appeared in the April/July 1911 issue of Camera Work, is an austere, minimal tour de force.

"Road into the Valley - Moonrise," ca. 1903 is a hand-toned photogravure from the April 1906 volume of Camera Work. Made by Steichen at the peak of his career as a painter, it is reminiscent of his legendary gum prints, (one of which sold in February 2006 for close to three million dollars.) Printed in verdigris ink and mounted on gray papers, the photograph shows a country road winding through a peaceful valley as the moon rises over distant hills. The quiet, nocturnal beauty of the image epitomizes the soft-focused romance of the Pictorial sensibility.

 

Liz Kay

 

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