Research Point – Duane, Keith, John & Ed

Rather than do separate research pages for each, I have grouped these guys together in a four-piece – a 50’s rock-n-roll, Beatles, Stones combo.

Duane I had heard of but hadn’t really paid enough attention to. Keith I also knew based mainly on the cheesy humour thats involved – ‘Portrait of the artist as a shadow of his former self’, being a prime example. Ed Ruscha I knew only as a pop art painter – so had missed out on this photographic work completely. John Hilliard I simply did  not know and this looks to have been an oversight.

Duane Michals is clearly a relevant research point for an exercise on sequences – sure he called one of his books that!! These visual narratives, often containing text, are very interesting. Some are more visually/ technically experimental than others, some a passing moment as if from a comic strip – others such as Things are Queer could be from a photographic Alice in Wonderland, playing with perception – I can see why one article suggests he has Lewis Carroll as an influence. His retrospective at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh was called Storyteller and I can see why that is. I accept that Muybridge was technologically experimental etc, but Michals sequences I find far more engaging, far cleverer in content. As art works they seem self-aware, dropping in little digs at the art world – I particularly like Sidney Sherman. I think if I had my sequence time over again, I would aim to do something like Duane….

I think its the humour I like best in Keith’s work. Pretty much every article on Arnatt regards him as a conceptual photographer. Like Michals, Arnatt seems to question the place/ role/ attitude towards a modern artist – and I like this self-questioning. He seems to have spent a fair portion of the late 60’s buried up to the neck, which is an interesting situation. I also like the way that in comparison to many other photographers his images are rather low key, shot in everyday locations (a wall, a field, a rubbish dump), of small easy accessible objects. A former sculptor, his images are more a documenting of an action, or construction, which then becomes the art work itself, delivering his concept. As someone who keeps getting told that the concept behind my photographs is good (usually as a positive to counter the negative review of my actual images) I appreciate the importance of a concept – so now I just need to translate that into a decent image.

I am pretty ashamed to say that I didn’t know John Hilliard before being asked to read about him. So, we have another concept guy. And again rather self-examining in that he tackles the very nature/ concept of art itself. Also like Arnatt, he seems to have begun life as a sculptor, photographing his sculptures, which were transient. He then moves to tackling the way in which ‘photographic records’ or ‘replicas’ came to stand for works of art’ – so moving to dealing with the mechanics of photography – the attributes of the camera itself – cropping, focussing, captioning etc. An example of this might be ‘The camera recording its own condition,1971’ – In this image there are 70 different frames showing the camera recording itself at 7 different apertures and 10 different exposure times. What I admire about his works is the acknowledgement he pays to us, the viewer, that we are looking at work done by a camera. He doesn’t pretend that these images are the real world, a documentary, he draws a line between what is real, and what is the image – and that line is the camera.

I was aware of Ed Ruscha’s pop art paintings, but not of his photography. Now, and here is an interesting connection – like Gerhard Richter’s Atlas – I have some Baader-Meinhof situation, with the phenomenon of seeing his photographs everywhere (he is for example in this issue of the British Journal of Photography) – ok connection was Germanically tenuous. I think I am going to start taking more photos of petrol stations. Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations – featuring photographs of petrol stations from his home in Los Angeles to his parents’ residence in Oklahoma City – an interesting series. This systematic capturing reappears in ‘Every Building on the Sunset Strip’ – a Google Maps-like reproduction of, as you guessed it ‘Every Building on the Sunset Strip’. These images were then made into a mass produced book, plus elongated exhibition image – so the photographs become a sculptural object, and an experience. They reminded me also of the Hockney paintings of Mulholland Drive etc. The use of the ‘series’ here, that isn’t a series because its all ‘one’ is an interesting angle to take.