Image above: Charles Ray, Plank Piece I–II, 1973. Gelatin silver prints mounted on rag board, in two parts. © Charles Ray. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Gagosian Gallery presented on February 17th a pair of major exhibitions, curated by John Elderfield and Peter Galassi, devoted to images of artists' studios, in paintings and in photographs. The subject of the artist's studio in works of art is a very large one with a long history: The spaces where art is made, and the means by which it is made in that space, have proved fascinating to both its creators and its viewers. The aim of this pair of exhibitions is to explore important themes in the development of the subject within these two mediums.
(left) Florence Henri Self-Portrait, 1928. © Galleria Martini & Ronchetti, Genova. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery ; (right) Constantin Brancusi, View of the studio: Plato, Mademoiselle Pogany II, and Golden Bird, c. 1920. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Curated by Peter Galassi, former Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, “In the Studio: Photographs,” on view at 980 Madison Avenue, includes over 150 photographs by 40 artists—spanning from the origin of the medium to the late twentieth century—and is divided into three particularly rich themes within the broader subject of images of the artist's studio. The first of these identifies the studio as an arena for “Pose and Persona,” an artificial zone for the display of the body, and includes works by artists ranging from Eadweard Muybridge, Brassaï, and Walker Evans to Richard Avedon, Lee Friedlander, and Cindy Sherman. The nudes and portraits assembled here are exemplary because they acknowledge the role of the setting, or accentuate the deliberateness of a pose, or highlight the purposeful enactment of a persona. In the second section, “Four Studios,” in-depth selections of photographs by Constantin Brancusi, André Kertész (photographing Piet Mondrian's Paris studio), Lucas Samaras, and Josef Sudek show the studio as a total aesthetic environment.
(left) André Kertész, Satiric Dancer, Paris, 1926. ©Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery ; (right) Thomas Eakins. Two Pupils in Greek Dress, 1880s. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
For these photographers (as well as for Mondrian), the studio was home as well as workplace and became an all-encompassing aesthetic environment—an embodiment of a unique artistic identity and perhaps an instrument for realizing it. In the third and final section, “An Embarrassment of Images,” photographs by John O'Reilly, Robert Rauschenberg, Weegee and others engage the studio wall as a site for the accumulation and display of images.