Hal Fischer

  • Catherine Wagner

    The subject of Catherine Wagner’s most recent body of photographs is the American classroom. Wagner’s self-assigned purpose was to “photograph the diversity of American education within the context of the classroom.” Not unlike her earlier series about the construction of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center, this work is anchored in a concept that is deceptively prosaic. If the series’ premise is simple, the subjects she selects are anything but facile. But Wagner’s technical perfection, strong eye for composition, and well-honed intuition make this intrinsically inexpressive subject matter

  • Bill Dane

    Eccentric, absurd, and often comic facets of contemporary life are the dominant motifs in Bill Dane’s photographs. Though he works in the 35-mm tradition of Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, he has never offered the somber, slightly menacing visions of contemporary existence that at times characterize the work of those photographers. Dane opts for whimsy over hard-core reality, and much like the California funk artists who probably influenced him, this painter-turned-photographer celebrates the tacky and ridiculous. The most distinctive characteristic of his work is a sense of passive,

  • “Photography in California 1945–1980”

    “Photography in California 1945–1980,” a traveling exhibition featuring 250 photographs by 50 photographers, is a poor attempt at a historical survey. Organized by this museum (an institution that has collected and shown photography since the ’30s), the exhibition is inexplicably bereft of historical perspective, connoisseurship, and the most basic art-historical scholarship. Though conceived as a survey of the past three and a half decades, the show consists predominantly of works made after 1975; the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s are dealt with as a mere introduction to the creative apogee that Louise

  • Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel

    The focus of Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s exhibition here was the installation of electronic news and Wire-photo machines from Associated Press and United Press International, which spewed out approximately two hundred photographs and a thousand news stories a day during the month of the show. Functioning as editors, Sultan and Mandel planned to use these photographs and news-story galleys to create a series of wall installations, changing semiweekly, to “uncover hidden biases in the media.”

    Descending into the concrete, bunker-styled gallery, viewers encountered a facsimile newsroom replete

  • Wright Morris

    Wright Morris, author of eighteen novels, four books combining photographs and text, and numerous essays, has spent fifty years detailing a rural American way of life that went into decline in the Depression and was all but nonexistent by the end of World War II. Morris found the Depression “spectacularly photogenic,” but in contrast to many of the artists, writers, and photographers of his generation—who shared his subject matter but were of a more political ilk—Morris considered “depressed social reality subordinate to the revelation of experience.” In his most intensive working period, 1938–47,

  • “Slices Of Time: California Landscapes 1860–1880, 1960–1980,”

    In her introductory essay to “Slices of Time: California Landscapes 1860–1880, 1960–1980,” curator Therese Heyman appropriately refers to nature as California photography’s “most powerful and typical genre.” “Slices of Time . . .” concerns itself with a particular relationship within this tradition: the comparison to be drawn between the mammoth-plate explorer/photographers of the 19th century (e.g. Thomas Houseworth, Eadweard Muybridge, A.J. Russell, Carleton Watkins, A.W. Ericson, and Charles L. Weed) and the late-20th-century photographers who, in Heyman’s words, have returned to “the objective,

  • Phillip Galgiani

    In “Basic Meaning: A Photographic Work in Four Parts,” Phillip Galgiani investigates the ways in which juxtaposition and context determine meaning. The work is presented in four sections; each section is comprised of ten 30-by-40-inch black and white photographs and demonstrates’a specific conceptual premise or approach to the formation of context. In section one, the ten objects Galgiani works with (a hat, a funnel, a flashlight, and such) are presented in combination: one large photograph of an object is counterpointed against four smaller pictures of the other objects. In section two, each

  • George Platt Lynes

    The early years of George Platt Lynes’ career read like a Hollywood film script. Gifted and financially secure, he was privately educated and well-traveled. In the ’20s Lynes went to Paris, where he became acquainted with Man Ray and with Gertrude Stein and the writers and artists of her circle; by the middle of the ’30s he had established himself in New York, and, though not yet 30, had achieved success in the commercial and fashion photography fields and had exhibited his art photography at the Julien Levy Gallery and at the Museum of Modern Art. His achievements, however, were balanced by

  • Judith Golden

    Judith Golden’s most recent work, the “Portraits of Women” series, is a departure from the mixed-media, pop-magazine, self-portrait fantasies the photographer produced in the mid-’70s. This series is comprised of Cibachrome prints, ranging in size from 16-by-20 inches to 30-by-40 inches, to which color dyes have been selectively applied. Golden photographs her subjects in a studio setting against backgrounds of brightly colored satin swatches; the women are pictured from the waist up, with Sanderesque solemnity. Costumes, combinations of the subject’s own attire and the studio inventory, run to

  • Heinecken and The Photography of Max Yavno

    Heinecken, edited by James Enyeart, Friends of Photography in association with Light Gallery, 1980, 158 pages.

    IN HIS INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT to this volume, Robert Heinecken acknowledges that reproductions of his work can only function as “bare diagrams of already esoteric ideas or, at best, oblique reflections of the actual items.” Recognizing this limitation, Heinecken and his publishers have attempted to fashion something more visceral: sequences of “rich, non-linear sensations.”

    Heinecken surveys a little over a decade of work—the years between 1963 and 1976—in which the artist established

  • Henry Wessel, Jr.

    Henry Wessel, in this miniretrospective tracing his career from 1970 to 1980, shows himself to be a photographer who has formed a singular vision within a genre well honed by contemporary practitioners. In a direct manner, Wessel explores America’s prosaic yet surreal man-made landscapes: bizarrely shaped shrubbery, forlorn roadside motels, pastel colored stucco cottages and, most recently, Waikiki’s tourist milieu. It is subject matter that lends itself to satire or mockery, and can symbolize contemporary America at its most vacuous and banal. However, Wessel, who employs the type of vernacular,

  • Roger Minick

    The “Sightseer Series,” a collection of photographs taken on location in Yellowstone, Yosemite. Bryce Canyon and other western National Parks, is Roger Minick’s contribution to the iconography of tourism. Working predominantly, though not exclusively, in color, Minick has made portraits of individuals, groups and families perched on overlooks in front of the scenic wonders.

    Though Minick’s subjects, clad in the usual tourist garb, are ripe for satire, the photographer strives for and achieves an almost Sanderesque solemnity. His people project dignity; the humor results from pictorial counterpoint,

  • Danny Lyon

    Danny Lyon, filmmaker and photographer, achieved recognition with his photo essays on motorcycle gangs, The Bikeriders, 1967, and Texas prison life, Conversations with the Dead, 1971. His photographs—a potent mix of empathy and raw-edged veracity—avoid documentary cliche and simple minded humanism.

    Lyon’s recent photographs, which also appear in his book, The Paper Negative, 1980, are an apt though problematic coda to the past decade. During the 1970s the photographer moved away from the tight, project orientation of his earlier work. In the text to The Paper Negative, written in an autobiographical

  • Max Yavno

    In the late 1940s Max Yavno photographed San Francisco and Los Angeles, two cities in the midst of major physical and social changes. The New York born photographer, who had worked for the WPA and served as president of the Photo League, planned to photograph San Francisco’s diverse ethnic mix. However, on his first visit, he discovered the unique topography, architecture and climate, and chose instead to concentrate on the city’s physical appearance.

    Yavno’s speciality was the expansive, panoramic view. He rendered the architecture as modular patterns of frame houses against one another. He

  • Ellen Land-Weber

    ELLEN LAND-WEBER’s exhibition—coincident with the publication of her monograph The Passionate Collector—reveals an aspect of her work entirely different from the machine process imagery for which she is well known. For the past two years Land-Weber has collected “collectors,” traveling around the United States making portraits of individuals and their possessions. The collections run the gamut from the expected: bells, angels, license plates, antique glass; to the less common: cash registers, credit cards, carousel horses, and paperback copies of Catch 22; to the downright bizarre:

  • Kenneth Shorr

    KENNETH SHORR’s “Happy Idiots” photographs appear as open wounds that are disturbingly brutal. The ten triptychs shown consist of media and snapshot images which have been enlarged to a 20-by-24-inch format, then torn, burned, layered, and finally violated with red paint.

    Shorr’s work reveals the formal influence of his L.A. mentors Robert Heinecken and Judith Golden. But his photographs are unique in that his alterations do not function as embellishment, but rather as an aggressive, even anarchistic metamorphosis. The source material includes pictures of Kennedy, Mao, Carter and Brezhnev, the

  • Christian Schad

    As a founder of the Zurich Dada group and “inventor” of the Schadograph (a negativeless photographic positive comparable to a photogram), Christian Schad established a reputation as a vanguard 20th-century artist. This retrospective traces the 86-year-old artist’s career from 1913 to the present day. Curiously, the complete range of this German artist’s work has until now remained relatively undisclosed.

    Schad’s early years, spent in Munich and Zurich, make evident several styles of painting and a receptivity to new or untried materials. His Dada period culminated with polychrome reliefs in which

  • Hans Mende

    In his introduction to Hans Mende’s photographs of Berlin, Janos Frecot points out that in the middle ages cities were formed by walls, discernible boundaries separating city from country. In the contemporary metropolis such delineations are rare, and cities and suburbs grow together to form indistinct urban sprawls. Political realities have,however, returned Berlin to a topographical status comparable to that of medieval city state.

    Hans Mende’s photographic essay “Grenzbegehung” (i.e. walking the line) is an alternative exploration of Berlin. What makes the work “alternative” is Mende’s choice

  • Susan Felter

    In photographs made at western rodeos, Susan Felter displays a sure instinct for the mythic and erotic overtones of this American ritual. She photographs surface illusion, straight-faced macho cowboys in pink satin shirts and two toned leather chaps, and the kinetic colors and shapes of bronco riding. Her vision is in harmony with both the cowboys, who desire to project a ruggedly virile image, and the rodeo entrepreneurs, who fabricate spectacles.

    The photographs are divided almost evenly between portraits, some of them posed, others frozen with strobe in mid-action, and movement studies, abstract

  • Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock Reynolds

    Suzanne Hellmuth’s and Jock Reynolds’ recent exhibition, “A State of the Union: Photographic Juxtapositions,” evidences a multiplicity of unrealized possibilities. Enticed by the 200,000 photographs in the century-old archive of the California Historical Society, the artists began selecting pictures which through visual linkage, juxtaposition, and fragmentation could “address the issues and the nature of human events in this period of expansion and industrialization in California.” Conceived as an installation, the photographs were sequenced in units of two or more, re-photographed, framed, and