Jack Crager

Jack Crager is a New York City-based writer, editor, and project manager who covers photography, people, the environment, and related topics.

Jack Crager is a New York City-based writer, editor, and project manager who covers photography, people, the environment, and related topics.

Josef Albers Explores Mexico

Anni Albers’s portrait of Josef Albers, Mitla, Mexico, 1935-39, © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The late German-American artist Josef Albers is best known for his modernist, minimalist abstract paintings blending sharp geometric patterns with intense colors. But his visual inspiration for these works often stemmed from his artful black-and-white photographs of scenes he found in architecture and nature during his world travels (his wife Anni’s 1935-36 portrait of Albers in Mitla, Mexico is above). This creative symbiosis underlies Josef Albers in Mexico, a revelatory exhibit at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum through March 28.

Albers photograph

Josef Albers, Untitled (Mitla, Mexico), 1956, © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society

Although Albers did not exhibit his photographs formally or create a great deal of large-scale prints, he was a prolific photographer during his frequent trips to Mexico. The exhibit’s contact sheets reveal his obsessive attention to compositional detail as he documented ancient architectural forms, such as the carved details in the Zapotec Ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca (above). Albers often studied and photographed such patterns from dozens of different angles, later incorporating them into his abstracted paintings.

Josef Albers, To Mitla, 1940, © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society

Josef Albers, “To Mitla,” 1940, © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society

Installation view: Josef Albers in Mexico, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2017

Installation view: Josef Albers in Mexico; Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2017

The exhibition does a marvelous job of juxtaposing Albers’s photographic studies with the corresponding series of paintings, as in the above installation view of his “To Mitla” (top) shown alongside images he shot on location. Many other ancient architectural sites such as the Great Pyramid of Tenayuca (below) find their way into Albers’s nonrepresentational art—demonstrating that the man who seemingly made a career out of his Homage to the Square series actually embarked on and drew from numerous, mysterious geometric explorations.

Josef Albers, Untitled (Great Pyramid, Tenayuca, Mexico), ca. 1940, © 2016 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society

Josef Albers, Untitled (Great Pyramid, Tenayuca, Mexico), ca. 1940, © 2016 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society

 

 

Leaning Out from Above

View of NYC from Fifth Avenue

Trained as an architect, photographer Jeffrey Milstein started shooting cityscapes from above as a young pilot in his native Los Angeles, and his large-scale aerial photographs reflect his sense of mechanized urban order. As implied by the title of his series shot in and around New York City — Leaning Out, on view at Manhattan’s Benrubi Gallery through March 17 — Milstein often shoots with his upper torso hanging out of the open hatch of a small plane, or more often (due to city restrictions) a helicopter (as in his above photograph “NYC Fifth Ave, 2016″).

Shouldn’t try this at home, folks. Yet many have been here before: We’ve seen powerful aerial projects including Vincent Laforet’s luminous nighttime cityscapes in his series and monograph AIR, Garth Lenz’s overviews of Canadian oil-industry destruction in The True Cost of Oil, Benjamin Grant’s satellite studies using Google Earth views in Overview, Edward Burtynsky’s ongoing ecological revelations from the air, and the grand master of all, Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s iconic studies of Earth From Above.

Overview of ship in sea

Container Ship and Tugs 2, 2017

 What’s special about Milstein? For one thing, he gets in as close as possible. His early small-plane views of New York were “like a mile and a half up, which gets you a different kind of picture, which is also very cool. It looks like a computer board or something,” Milstein told blogger Hannah Frishberg in a Q&A on 6sqft.com. But in a helicopter, “you can take the door off, get in close to places I couldn’t do with the plane.” As seen this overhead shot of a cargo ship in New York Harbor, Milstein’s digital images render overhead detail from a novel viewpoint. 

(Left) Newark 8 Terminal B, 2016 / (Right) Toyotas Port of Long Beach, 2016

(Left) Newark 8 Terminal B, 2016 / (Right) Toyotas Port of Long Beach, 2016

Milstein also has an uncanny gift for composition, as in these shots of planes in Newark and replica cars in Long Beach, CA. His 2017 book LA NY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angeles and New York chronicles views of America’s two largest cities, both anarchic behemoths in their own ways, as if they contain preordained aesthetic patterns. Even leaning out from above, Milstein manages to render huge cityscapes as orderly abstractions, colorful renderings of unintended art.

Container Port 43

Human Nature

Foglia1

Esme Swimming from the series Human Nature © Lucas Foglia

Hello photo world: Greetings from NYC. It’s my pleasure to serve as guest blogger this month for Hatje Cantz fotoblog, by invitation from Nadine Barth. Nadine and I know each other via PHotoEspaña, Madrid’s annual photography festival, where we’ve both made a habit of showing up during the regular June press week to imbibe all the great imagery (and food). Alas, summer is still months away, but this month (through 28 February) the PHE host organization La Fábrica is staging the first annual Madrid Design Festival, showcasing everything from graphic design to architecture to industrial design.

Meanwhile, winter notwithstanding (we won’t even mention discontent), things are heating up in the photography world. Across the pond from here is a terrific exhibit at Amsterdam’s Foam Museum titled Lucas Foglia: Human Nature. This American photographer has made an effort to get us all off the couch and out into the natural world, vis-a-vis inspirational naturalists and scientists who measure ways we are affected by nature, and vice versa. Foglia presents views of human-organic coexistence — such as the aerial shot above of a hotel in Singapore, with its symbiosis between plants and urban architecture. The show features imagery from Foglia’s 2017 monograph Human Nature (Nazraeli Press).

Photograph of woman on mountain connected to electronic equipment

Kate in an EEG Study of Cognition in the Wild, Strayer Lab, University of Utah © Lucas Foglia

In the above image Foglia depicts a field experiment on the effects of natural stimuli on the human psyche. The Human Nature series draws on the photographer’s own experiences: Foglia grew up on a farm near New York City, where his family mostly lived off the land, and his first major project and book — A Natural Order — explored the lives of other people existing off the grid. After Hurricane Sandy destroyed the forests of Foglia’s youth, he began focusing on the global effects of manmade climate change and, conversely, the effects of nature on people.

Photograph of man falling in glacier

Kenzie inside a Melting Glacier, Juneau Icefield Research Program, Alaska © Lucas Foglia

The above field photograph by Foglia reveals the outer extremes of human exploration as well as the spectacular beauty of glaciers, even as they melt. Foglia depicts scientists whose work faces its own endangerment, in the form of budget cuts and censorship by the Trump administration. Other portrait subjects, such as the au natural gentleman below, revel in their pristine environs with gleeful abandon. Collectively, Foglia’s pictures spotlight the synergy of humankind’s connection with nature — as well as its increasing tenuousness.

Photograph of man swinging in a tree

Matt Swinging between Trees, Lost Coast, California, © Lucas Foglia, courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery