Out of the Shadows at The Phillips Collections
Out of the Shadows, a Brett Weston retrospective spanning virtually his entire career, opened yesterday at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.
Brett Weston has always been bigger than life to me and perhaps I went in with unreasonably inflated expectations. Nevertheless, the artist's work did not disappoint (it never does). I had a lot of problems, however, with the exhibition.
First problem: there were a great many godawful prints from the Lane Collection hung next to some of the most magnificent photographs I've ever seen (from the Brett Weston Archive). They don't deserve to be in the same state as prints from the Brett Weston Archive, much less on the same wall. No exhibition of Brett Weston's ever needs filler. These should have been left out.
Second problem: the lighting is atrocious. Some of the building reflection pictures could have been seen better in candlelight.
These were also the only Brett Weston prints I've seen which were not floated in windows cut into the overmat. All the other BW's I've ever seen are floated and signed under the print on the mat. If he matted them this way, with the overmat encroaching on the edges of the print (and I find it hard to imagine that he would do that), so be it. But if whoever curated this thing matted them that way, a pox on them.
Still, the blemishes notwithstanding, the exhibition can't help but show us what a colossus this artist was. I'll go back, probably more than once. Except for a few exquisite pieces by his father, I have to say that I think Brett Weston was the best gelatin silver photographer ever.
The Phillips is at 21st and Q Sts., NW, one block west of the Q Street exit of the Dupont Circle meto station.
When this exhibit opened at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art there was mention here that it would be moving to DC, but no mention that I remember of further travels. Did you learn if the exhibit will continue traveling to other cities and if so, where? Twelve + hours drive round trip to DC is a bit of a commitment.
Could you be a bit more specific about "there were a great many godawful prints from the Lane Collection". I have only seen Ansel Adams pictures from the Lane Collection when they were in Detroit and compared them to AA's selection for the San Francisco Friends of Photography collection showing at overlaping time in Cleveland. At the time Tom Henson, photography curator of the Cleveland Museum, said the main difference was selection, those chosen by the customer vs. those chosen by the artist. What is it you don't like about the Lane Collection?
Last edited by jp80874; 06-23-2008 at 06:13 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I saw this exhibition in OKC. Maybe the lighting there was better.
Originally Posted by c6h6o3
Isn't the Phillips in a converted mansion? I'm not saying that they couldn't light things properly in an old house, but I seem to remember not being too excited by the location regardless of the art when I visited the Phillips a few years ago.
Anyway, I did not notice any "godawful" prints. Maybe I'm not that discerning. Or maybe, I was just in awe of being in the same room with 130+ Brett Weston prints. I mean, I didn't like them all equally, but who does? I certainly wasn't aware of the mats.
I think this is a must-see exhibition (IMHO) for anybody attempting traditional black and white. I learned quite a bit. And the catalog is only $25! Highly recommended!
The Phillips was originally in a converted mansion. The mansion is now only a small part of the museum building. They have a large annex next door that houses the majority of their permanent collection and their travelling shows. The new exhibit space is perfectly capable of being lit appropriately, and has more than enough wallspace to arrange just about any show you'd want to mount.
I've seen dozens of exhibitions at the Phillips and like this one the least of them (from a purely curatorial standpoint). It's still a must see. The best photographs in this show just about bring tears to my eyes. Just when I think I've become a good printer, this show really put me in my place.
The bad prints are the yellow ones from the 30s that look like they were fixed in dirty dishwater.
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I'm ashamed to tell you that I clean forgot to ask about that. I will be sure to do so when I go back.
Originally Posted by jp80874
Originally Posted by jp80874
This site says: the exhibit will open at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art on March 20, 2008 before traveling to the Phillips Collection, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
On a Saturday I drove from Dallas to OKC, had lunch, spent 2 hours at the exhibit and drove back. Total of 7-8 hours in the car, but worth the day (and the gas) to see the exhibit. I've spent that much time (and more) in a car to take pictures, so ...
I haven't seen it and won't, at least at the Phillips. Too far. I saw another BW show, however, which was not displayed well; prints were almost stacked on top of each other, crowded together, far more prints than appropriate for the space and poorly lit. I can't recall the name of the gallery in SF - it was more than 15 years ago, and on Mission Street, the walls were brick. No idea if it is even still there.
I also happen to own what must be the worst print Brett ever made; the matting, his signature, etc. are done in a way that I would have to call simply tasteless, the signature really huge and almost more prominent than the image like shouting "BRETT WESTON!". The matte started falling apart even before I got it home. I hardly ever think of it and don't even quite know where it is now, although I know it's in a safe place. I got it on a special edition deal that was available through a gallery that I was associated with and arranged through one of Brett's friends. The purpose of the edition was, I believe, to support the gallery. The sense I have of it is that Brett just didn't care much about it. Whatever the reason, it is not a good idea to let work out under your name that is of poor quality and doesn't support, at least, the level of your best work.
Well, I've done some things that haven't helped my career too. Lots of 'em. I suppose we all have.
As far as Brett goes, I guess I'm not as big a fan as some of you. There are a lot of great photographers. He was good, no doubt about it, but a long way from divine.
Thank you David. I leave tomorrow to drive 440 miles one way to enjoy 40 some photographers at Bill Schwab's "Photostock 2008". My point was not was it worth the trip, but was there a shorter distance I might travel for the same exhibit. Pittsburgh, Columbus and Detroit all have wonderful exhibits frequently. I plan to be back in MI next month for the Kenro Izu opening in Detroit.
Originally Posted by David Brown
If you want to combine two exhibits to justify the trip, Kenro Izu is also having a show starting June 28th at the Addison Ripley Fine Art Gallery in Washington, D.C..
I've yet to see a listing on Phillips site for the Brett Weston catalog. Anybody have info on how to purchase it (other than visiting the Gallery)?
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