Monday, November 30, 2009

Jonathan Traviesa's Portraits

Tony 2009 by Jonathan Traviesa

In the first part of the 20th century, August Sander stated:
I am not concerned with providing commonplace
photographs like those made in the finer large-scale studios of the city, but
simple, natural portraits that show the subjects in an environment corresponding
to their own individuality, portraits that claim the right to be evaluated as
works of art and to be used as wall ornaments ... It is not my intention either to
criticize or to describe these people, but to create a piece of history with my

Sharon 2004 by Jonathan Traviesa

With this goal, he began his most significant body of work, Citizens of the Twentieth Century, a groundbreaking series of black-and-white photographs that paved the way for such works as Irving Penn's Worlds in a Small Room and Richard Avedon's Portraits of the American West. His influence can be seen down the line from Walker Evans to Diane Arbus.

Heather 2003 by Jonathan Traviesa

The Sander influence can be clearly seen in the cool, spare style of Jonathan Traviesa's series, Portraits, currently hanging on the fourth floor of the Ogden Museum. His simple approach to the subjects allows a deeply psychological reading of the image, not just a caricature of a character, but a living personality. In the foreword to Traviesa's book, I believe New Orleans photographer, Richard Sexton, provided an eloquent and succinct critique of the series:

Jonathan’s methodology is about as simple and
straightforward as it gets. Using a Rolleiflex twin-lens camera passed on to him
from his father, loaded with black and white film, he solicits appointments to
photograph his subjects at their home or studio. The settings are outdoors,
keeping the lighting simple and allowing the context of New Orleans to creep
into the frame. His subjects are almost always photographed full figure, and,
around them, filling in the composition, we get a glimpse of where and how they
live. And it is this context that offers familiar fragments of New Orleans: the
decrepit shutter, a lush drape of tropical foliage, a porch swing, a backdrop of
weatherboards, or a beer can either left over from the night before or perhaps
currently in use. The remarkable thing is how natural and comfortable these
individuals fit into their landscape. Whether by fortune or birthplace or the
culmination of a long and circuitous migratory path, they all seem to be where
they belong.

Benjamin 1998 by Jonathan Traviesa

On December 10th during Ogden After Hours, Jonathan Traviesa will be signing his new book, Portraits: Photographs in New Orleans 1998 - 2009. Thirty-seven photographs featured in the publication are currently exhibited on the fourth floor of the Ogden's Goldring Hall.
Jonathan by Jonathan Traviesa

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Justin Forbes' Road Trip

Justin Forbes' Road Trip 1996
Gift of The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection.
Stanley Staniski's exhibition currently at the Ogden, On the Road with Benny Andrews, is devoted partly to Route 66 and the fading remnants of roadside Americana, leftover ephemera from the rise of American car culture. The themes of migration, Americana and the Route 66 road trip bring to mind another body of work in the Ogden's collection, the work of Justin Forbes.

Justin Forbes' Neo- American Gothic 1996
Gift of the Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection.
Justin's highly narrative paintings tell the story of his journey from LA to New Orleans, of his life in the underground of the South and the Southwest. They attempt brutally honest portraits and iconic images of time and place. They often succeed.
For nearly twenty-five years, Justin has been working as a freelance artist. His clients and collectors include Larry Flynt, Epitaph Records, Tabasco, Santa Cruz Skateboards, Walt Disney, ESPN, Lallapalooza, Dragon Stout, actress Sela Ward and Better Than Ezra's Kevin Griffin. He has several paintings in the Ogden Museum's Permanent Collection.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Justin Forbes boarded a bus from the Superdome that dropped him off in Denton, Texas, where he remains today.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lyle Bonge's Ultimate Ash Hauling Photographs

Copyright 1964 Lyle Bonge. Untitled gelatin silver print.

" If you can kill a snake with it, it aint art." -- Lyle Bonge

Photo by David Houston.

Lyle Bonge started taking photographs in his hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi. In the late 1940s, Bonge studies at the short-lived but highly influential Black Mountain College, where he roomed with famed essayist/poet/publisher Jonathan Williams. Since 1955, Bonge has amassed over 40,000 negatives of Mardi Gras, some of which were published in Jargon Press' 1977 publication of his photographs, The Sleep of Reason: Lyle Bonge's Ultimate Ash Hauling Photographs. His works are contained in private and public collections, including the Mississippi Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Art, Pensacola Art Museum and, of course, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. He still lives in the Biloxi house built by his mother and father, artists Dusti and Archie Bonge. Dusti was Mississippi's first true Modernist, showing at Betty Parson's Gallery in the late 50s. Beyond his career as a photographer, Lyle has been a boat builder, bank director and tree topper.