Exhibition explores the art book in all its' many guises
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Exhibition explores the art book in all its' many guises
California Kiss, 1955 © Elliott Erwitt. Courtesy of HackelBury Fine Art, London.

LONDON.- HackelBury Fine Art is exhibiting Art + Books, exploring the art book in all its’ many guises. The exhibition celebrates the art/artists’ book as a form of collaboration - between art and text and between artists, writers, galleries and publishers.

For many years, HackelBury has worked with artists to produce art books. Their publishing arm, Imprint, has seen five books produced in collaboration with numerous artists which often document important work which would otherwise go unseen.

Art + Books highlights a selection of these collaborations, including Doug and Mike Starn’s ‘Gravity of Light’, the first book to celebrate the full breadth of the Starns’ innovative photographic career, Alys Tomlinson’s Lost Summer and Willy Ronis’ Willy Ronis: The Master Photographer’s Unpublished Album, a photo-book which retraces his career and contributions to photography and photojournalism.

Elliott Erwitt’s ‘Personal Best’ is a collection of photographs spanning his career, gathering together many of his most remarkable images alongside many which have never before been published. ‘Ojeikere Photographs’ explores J. D. Okhai Ojeikere’s photographs of Nigerian hairstyling. Captured in meticulous detail, the images are ethnographic documents of this evolving aspect of Nigerian culture.

Ian McKeever’s ‘Against Photography: Early Works 1976’ was published to accompany the eponymous exhibition and provides a rare opportunity to immerse oneself fully in the dynamic first two decades of his long and distinguished career.

The art book has a long and important history which began in Paris in the 1890’s when artists decided the book format was the perfect tool for combining text and image. Artists embraced the opportunity to use available and inexpensive materials and methods to create a narrative and sequence of images (often combined with text), which communicates the work of an artist to a mass audience yet provides an intimate experience.

This democratizing of art and photography through the book format remains a singularly important reason for art books to be produced and allows work to be showcased which may otherwise be too costly or expansive to show in a physical gallery space. The book format gives more freedom to the artist to envisage how their work is perceived in time and space and, in the case of accompanying text, allows a dialogue to take place between image and text. The art book also reflects the passage of time, documenting an artist’s career, creating an archive and valuable legacy.

Elliott Erwitt
Born in France in 1928, Erwitt moved to the United States in 1939, where he studied photography and filmmaking. He began working as a photographic assistant while serving in the Army Signal Corps unit in Germany and France. While in New York, Erwitt met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker, the former head of the Farm Security Administration. He was initially hired to work on building a phot graphic library for the Standard Oil Company and on the project documenting the city of Pittsburgh. In 1953, Elliot Erwitt joined Magnum Photos and worked as a freelance photographer for “Collier’s”, “Look”, “LIFE” and “Holiday”. He photographed many prominent figures, including John F. Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, and Jack Kerouac. Conjointly with his commercial practice, Elliott continued working on his personal work which distinguishes itself through its humorous and often satirical character. His works are held in many prominent collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.

“Photography is an art of observation - it’s about creating something extraordinary out of the ordinary. You choose a frame and then wait until the right time for something magical to come along and fill it.”

William Klein
William Klein’s celebrated career encompasses street photography, fashion photography, abstract photography, filmmaking and painting. Klein is lauded for his revolutionary approach to fashion photography, taking models out of the studio and onto the streets. He is also know for his abstract pieces which he descibed as “drawn by light and its trajectory“ that he produced in his darkroom in the 1950s.

A major retrospective, ‘William Klein: YES - Photographs, Paintings, Films, 1948 - 2013’ was recently held at the International Center of Photography in New York. Other major exhibitions were in the institutions including Georges Pompidou, Paris; Gallery Lumiere in Seoul, South Korea; Tate Modern, Lodon; and the The Espacio Fundacion Telefonica, Madrid.

Klein’s works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Yokohama Museum of Art, Nishi-ku, Yokohama; the Japan National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Museum of Photography, Seoul; the National Portrait Gallery, London, among many others.

“I have always done the opposite of what I was trained to do... Having little technical background, I became a photographer. Adopting a machine, I do my utmost to make it malfunction. For me, to make a photograph is to make an anti-photograph.”

Ian McKeever
Born in 1946, Ian McKeever is a photographer and painter who often juxtaposes the two mediums in his practice. While his early work as a painter grew out of a conceptual interest in landscape, his later works give prominence to more abstract forms. In focusing on elements of the human body, architectural structures, and the qualities of light, McKeever pushes the notion of photography as a literal, figurative epresentation of reality. His photographs are often extreme close-ups, cropped, or turned upside-down before being over-painted, de-emphasising their figurative qualities. McKeever has received numerous awards including the prestigious DAAD scholarship and has exhibited extensively including major exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museo d’Art Contemporarie, Barcelona; National Gallery, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum; Royal Academy of Arts, London and Tate Britain, London. McKeever has taught extensively in Great Britain, Germany, and the USA. He has held several teaching positions including Guest Professor at the Städel Akademie der Kunst in Frankfurt, Senior Lecturer, Slade, University of London and Visiting Professor at the University of Brighton.

“I am interested in the nature of light – working with paint to imbue a surface with an implicit light. Not simply a depicted light, but an implicit light that is held inside the piece. As a painter of large paintings, working on small canvases can be very difficult. Cutting up the canvases and affixing them onto small wooden panels, I was able to create an artwork that really functioned. The compact size and physical relationship between the paint, the canvas, and the quality of the wood, creates an interrelationship that I really like.”

Doug and Mike Starn
Doug and Mike Starn, American, identical twins, were born in 1961. They first received international attention at the 1987 Whitney Biennial. For more than twenty years the Starns were primarily known for working conceptually with photography. Major themes of their work include chaos, interconnection and interdependence. ‘Attracted to light’ explores the theme of light - its role in the process of seeing an photographing but also more metaphorically as a symbol of power and knowledge. Major artworks by the Starns are represented in public and private collections including: The Museum of Modern Art (NYC); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, (NYC); The Jewish Museum, (NYC); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); Moderna Museet (Stockholm); The National Gallery of

Victoria (Melbourne); Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC); Yokohama Museum of Art (Japan); La Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris); La Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.

”We want to show the guts of photography - mainly because we love it so much. Each step in the process has its own beauty and limitless potential.”

Alys Tomlinson
Alys Tomlinson was born in 1975 and grew up in Brighton, UK. After a degree in English Literature, she went on to study photography at Central Saint Martins and recently completed an MA (Distinction) in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London. Her major body of work Ex-Voto (2016-2018) explored Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe. The works encompass formal portraiture, large format landscape and small, detailed still-life shots of the ex-voto objects and markers left behind. Ex-Voto was published as a book by GOST in Spring 2019. An later body of work Lost Summer captures the teenagers whose school proms have been cancelled due to COVID. Three works from Lost Summer – Samuel, Jameela and Jack – won the 2020 Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. Recently, Alys has been working on Gli Isonalni – a series in which she explores the lives of islanders in modern-day Italy, capturing little-known rituals and tradition inspired by paganism, fables and folklore.

“I suppose I didn’t set out with a clear idea of how I wanted to portray the students, but I wanted them to have this kind of inner strength that would come through. I was really struck at how resilient they were. I didn’t want them to look Like they were victims of the pandemic, I wanted them to look like young people who are self-possessed and confident, but also have this slight fragility and vulnerability about them.”

Willy Ronis
Willy Ronis (1910 – 2009) was a French photographer renowned for his images of post-war life in Provence and Paris. Ronis was interested in music and dreamt of becoming a composer. In 1932, after his conscription in the military, Ronis had to put his music on hold as he had to take over the family photography studio. Four years later, his father died and business closed down. Ronis had become interested in photography and began working as a freelancer. He joined Rapho, a photography agency, with Ergy Landau, Robert Doisneau, and Brassaï. In 1953, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Izis, Robert Doisneau,Brassaï, and Ronis were exhibited by Edward Steichen, in Five French Photographers at MOMA in New York. The exhibition took place at Museum of Modern Art. Two years later, Ronis’s work was included in the travelling retrospective, Family of Man. In 1957, he was given the Gold Medal at the Venice Biennale. “Most of my photographs were taken on the spur of the moment, very quickly, just as they occurred. All attention focuses on the specific instant, almost too good to be true, which can only vanish in the following one.”

J.D.’ Okhai Ojeikere
J.D.’ Okhai Ojeikere (born 1930, died 2014) was raised in a small village in rural southwestern Nigeria. In 1950, he bought a modest Brownie D camera, and a neighbour taught him the rudiments of photography. Just as Nigeria was shedding colonial rule in 1961, he became a still photographer for Television House Ibadan, a division of the Western Nigerian Broadcasting Services, the first television station in Africa. In 1963 he moved to Lagos to work for West Africa Publicity. In 1967 he joined the Nigerian Arts Council, and during their festival of the following year he began to take series of photographs dedicated to Nigerian culture. This body of work, now consisting of thousands of images, has become a unique anthropological, ethnographic, and documentary national treasure. The Hairstyle series, which consists of close to a thousand photographs, is the largest and the most thorough segment of Ojeikere’s archive. For Ojeikere, this is a never-ending project as hairstyles evolve with fashion.

“All these hairstyles are ephemeral. I want my photographs to be noteworthy traces of them. I always wanted to record moments of beauty, moments of knowledge. Art is life. Without art, life would be frozen.”

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