Monday, February 17, 2014

Interplay of Modernists --- Day 3/37

Walk: JCCSF, Fillmore Street
Distance: 3 Miles and take yoga class

Georgia O'Keefe, Maple and Cedar, Lake George 1922

Paul Strand, Wire Wheel, New York, 1920

Paul Strand, Porch Shadows,  Twin Lakes, Connecticut, 1916

Georgia O'Keefe, Storm Cloud, Lake George, 1923

Paul Strand (1890-1976) was an American photographer and filmmaker who, along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, helped establish photography as an art form in the early 20th century.  In 1915 Stieglitz, his mentor and gallerist, criticized the graphic softness of Strand's photographs, and over the next two years, he dedicated himself to dramatically changing his techinique repeatedly immersing himself in the new artistic idioms increasingly appearing in New York shows.  He had a particular eye for art influenced by Cezanne and Picasso whose work he'd encountered at the 1913 Amory Show.  Then in 1916 while staying at the summer cottage his family rented every year in Twin Lakes, Connecticut, he set about learning "how you build a picture, what a picture consists of, how shapes are related to each other, how spaces are filled, how the whole thing must have a kind of unity." 

Scavenging some crockery and fruit from the cottage kitchen, Strand made arrangements on the porch, learning how to create movement and depth in the compact universe that became the picture. First tilting the bowls, then the rocking chair and table, and then further rotating his photograph ninety degrees, Strand gradually abandoned the recognizable and comfortable for a space that is largely incomprehensible, a pattern of tones of extraordinary authority and dynamic formal coherence. These stunning photographs were the first significant abstractions intentionally made with a camera.*

Even before meeting Stieglitz, O'Keefe came upon Strand and his work through shows at Stieglitz's Gallery 291 and was a great admirer professionally and personally.  Always veiled about her artistic sources, O'Keefe was  unquestionably strongly influenced by photography. The cropping of her compositions, and her close focus, multiple perspectives, the monolithic, magnified forms, and more, are all associated with photography, particularly (her gallerist, mentor, lover and later husband) Stieglitz and (her friend/perhaps more) Paul Strand.


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