Editor's note: Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University directly through either this phone number or web address:
The Photography of John Gutmann: Culture Shock
Focusing on an outstanding group of 100 photographs selected by the artist to exemplify more than a half century of work, The Photography of John Gutmann: Culture Shock examines the achievement of this unique and influential artist and considers his career in its historic context. The exhibition surveys Gutmann's documentary work in Asia, Europe, and the United States during the 1930s and '40s and includes classic images such as Death Stalks the Fillmore (1934). Gutmann's photographs illustrate his personal adaptation of surrealism. He turned from recording the odd and the marvelous that presented itself to his gaze and began to experiment with inventing and constructing images. (left: John Gutmann, Jitterbug, New Orleans, 1937, Gelatin-silver print, The Capital Group Companies, Inc.)
Born in Germany in 1905 and trained as a painter, Gutmann took up photography in 1933 and supported himself as a photojournalist after emigrating to the United States. A student of the German expressionist painter Otto Mueller, Gutmann brought to the task of documenting his new surroundings a sensibility nurtured in the avant-garde circles of Berlin. He became fascinated by the popular culture of the United States-"all this bad taste here which, of course, I learned to love"-which he saw as evidence of "enormous vitality." "I was seeing America with an outsider's eyes-the automobiles, the speed, the freedom, the graffiti," he explained in a 1989 interview, and his powerful images, which record "the almost bizarre, exotic qualities of the country," established his reputation. Having settled in San Francisco, he helped link the West Coast to European modernism, inspiring later generations of photographers through his unique capacity to disclose the ambiguities and oddities within the commonplace. (right: John Gutmann, The Oracle, 1949, Gelatin-silver print, The Capital Group Companies, Inc.)
The fully illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition features an introduction by Sandra S. Phillips, Curator of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Phillips explores two primary themes suggested by this unique selection of works from the Capitol Group collection. She compares Gutmann's vision of American culture and the work of other photojournalists in such popular magazines as Life and Look. She also discusses Gutmann's artistic development, elucidating continuities between his images of the '30s and '40s that document American vernacular culture and his personal surrealism of the 1950s. (left: John Gutmann, Mobile, Alabama, 1937, Gelatin-silver print, The Capital Group Companies, Inc.)
All photographs are lent by The Capital Group Companies, Inc. or The Capital Group Foundation. The Photography of John Gutmann: Culture Shock is organized and circulated by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. The exhibition has been made possible, in part, by generous support from The Capital Group Companies, Inc. and The Capital Group Foundation.
Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Cantor Arts Center in Resource Library Magazine
For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.
Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.