Rosa Parks Day

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Don Cravens, [Rosa Parks riding on newly integrated bus following Supreme Court ruling ending successful 381-day boycott of segregated buses, Montgomery, Alabama], 1956 (1262.2005)

Rosa Parks Day is celebrated to honor the civil rights activist, who is known for refusing to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. In some states the Day is observed on Ms. Parks’ birthday, February 4th. Other states honor her legacy on December 1st, the day she was arrested. Today would have been Rosa Parks’ 104th birthday.

This post is published to honor African American History Month.

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A historical performance

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Thomas D. McAvoy, [Crowd at Marian Anderson’s Easter concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC], April 9, 1939 (1081.2005)

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Thomas D. McAvoy, [Marian Anderson’s Easter concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, watched by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and others, Washington, DC], April 9, 1939 (1084.2005)

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Lisa LarsenMarian Anderson, ca. 1949 (2008.4.1)

Black History Month, or African-American History Month celebrates the achievements of African-Americans and recognizes their important role in the history of the United States. Black History Month grew out of “Negro History Week”, a nationwide celebration in 1926, organized by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). Woodson launched the week believing that when the African-American community acknowledges and celebrates its own accomplishments, it affirms and strengthens the legacy of African-Americans in the history of the United States.

For this first Black History Month blog post, we celebrate contralto Marian Anderson. In the late 1930s Ms. Anderson was invited by Howard University to perform in Washington D.C.. Considering her international reputation, a venue that would accommodate a large audience, was needed. The Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. was approached. Despite years of performing at international concert halls and collaborating with renowned musicians, Marian Anderson was not allowed to perform at the venue. The hall was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.H.) and their contracts with performing artists stated a white-artist-only clause.

In the continuing search for a location, the story goes that Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP, had suggested that Ms. Anderson should perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. With the support of Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, this request was granted. On April 9, 1939 Marian Anderson staged a historic performance in front of 75,000 people. In photos of the concert, the statue of Abraham Lincoln looms in the background. In his introduction of Ms. Anderson, Secretary Ickes said In this great auditorium under the sky, all of us are free. When God gave us this wonderful outdoors and the sun the moon and the stars, he made no distinction of race or creed or color.

When Marion Anderson started to sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” she altered the words in the third line of the lyrics, singing “we” instead of “I”. Years later she explained, We cannot live alone. […] And the thing that made this moment possible for you and for me, has been brought about by many people whom we will never know. Still years away from the changes the Civil Rights Movement would bring, people like Marian Anderson paved the way for social change that was to come.

This post is published to honor African American History Month.

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Prisoners of war

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Werner Bischof, [Prisoners of war camp, Korea], 1951 (878.1974)

This dramatic image was taken by Werner Bischof during the Korean War. The war began when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950 and ended three years later, leaving nearly five million soldiers and civilians dead with two countries divided. Fifty countries, including the United States, entered this war on the side of the United Nations and South Korea, and China sided with North Korea.

This picture depicts Chinese army prisoners of war captured during the 1951 spring offensive. They are standing in a row next to the river, wearing winter clothes, and waiting for ships that might take them to the prisoner camp. This picture shows a short moment of peace in a war with beautiful landscape but also suggests fears of another battle.

Hyungjo Moon, ICP-Bard 2017

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Karl Blossfeldt: New Objectivity

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Karl Blossfeldt, VI, 1929 (2008.31.6)

In the 1920s artists developed the New Objectivity, a modernist German art movement that challenged Expressionism. Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932), a botanical photographer, sculptor, and teacher was one of the main photographers of this movement. He dedicated himself to the study of forms in nature with a great passion and strong connection to his subject, making typological photographs of a variety of plants. This image was published in his book titled Unformen der Kunst. Blossfeldt constructed his own large-format camera to reveal the details and patterns of the plants within their natural structure by magnifying them up to twenty-seven times their actual size. He transformed the body of the plant into a new object by breaking the association between object and space. Blossfeldt believed that there was a strong relationship between nature and architecture. Using deep shadows and highlights in this picture, he created an explicit outline to emphasize the architectural structures of plants. At the same time, midtone details created striking surfaces. This combination of visual elements works together to change our perception of this specific plant. Through his vision, this picture was made not only as a photographic documentation of plants but also as a way to establish a personal and emotional approach to his subject.

Gülsüm Eryilmaz, ICP-Bard 2017

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Four Corrugated Cubes from One

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Robert Cumming, Four Corrugated Cubes from One, 1980 (157.1985)

As exemplified in this photograph, Robert Cumming would often create elaborate DIY-looking objects, structures, and situations for the sole purpose of making his pictures. In 2001, Howard Yezerki Gallery published a book of Cumming’s Sketch Boards for Fabricated Photographs, displaying the photographer’s extremely logical application of nonsense as clearly planned strategy. While his deadpan humor is characteristic of conceptual artists working during the 1960s and 1970s, his photographs, which were often made using a large-format camera, overtly endorse pictorial and aesthetic concerns at odds with the deskilling favored by conceptualism’s practitioners. The simple and descriptive nature of Cumming’s titles often contrasts with the sheer absurdity of his depictions. Today, Cumming’s experimental work strongly resonates with contemporary photographic practices concerned with montage, layering of images, and the construction of a complex photographic and pictorial space through both analog and digital means.

Emile Rubino, ICP-Bard 2017

 

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Dr. Martin Luther King Day

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Flip Schulke, [Martin Luther King Jr. leading second march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama], March 1965 (2012.97.3)

Dr. Martin Luther King was the most important force behind the movement toward civil rights. At 35, he was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. After this year’s election, that has caused such division, Dr. King’s acceptance speech resonates today:

[…] Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. […]

Dr. King would have turned 88 on January 15, 2017.

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Serafina

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Graciela Iturbide, Serafina,  1987 (129.1995)

Serafina is part of Graciela Iturbide’s series Juchitán. The picture is rooted in the artist’s strong interest in culture, ritual, and everyday life in indigenous Mexico, particularly its matriarchal social structures and deep mysticism. Using black and white photography, strong shadows, and a very frontal composition, the artist depicts a woman carrying an old frame that obscures her face; perhaps this is a portrait of an indigenous Oaxacan woman, under the beautifully mundane yet mysterious Mexican landscape. Iturbide extends the concept of documentary photography to explore the relationships between women and nature, the individual and culture, the real and the psychological.

Considered one of the most important and influential Latin American photographers of the past four decades, Iturbide was inspired by the photography of Josef Koudelka, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, among others. She is a founding member of the Mexican Council of Photography and her work has been exhibited internationally in places such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Cristina Velasquez, ICP-Bard 2017

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