Margery Mann

  • Richard Elkus’s Alamos at the De Young Museum

    It is fortunate that the De Young has chosen to show Richard Elkus’s photographs from his book, Alamos, since few of us will have the opportunity to see the book, which was published by Grabhorn Press in an edition of fewer than 500 copies and costs $75. The book is a magnificent, opulent volume, almost a tribute to the taste of Renaissance man, for its spine is covered in rich brown suede and it is bound in specially-woven Mexican fabric––actually, more accurately, Mexicanesque, for the light brown, orange and buff look to have been mingled by an interior decorator rather than by a Mexican

  • “Contemporary Photographs from the George Eastman House Collection, 1900–1964” at the De Young Museum

    The 124 photographs selected by Nathan Lyons to represent the range of contemporary photographic expression show clearly that we have today such a wonderfully malleable, plastic concept of the world that the imaginative photographer can mould and stretch and pommel reality into undreamed-of new dimensions. Lyons has in general selected the unexpected, sometimes Surrealistic, image rather than the image that isolates the commonplace object or experience to make us look at it with new eyes. People wear masks, and our minds must resolve the difference between masked and non-masked individual to be


    THE POSSIBILITIES OPENED UP by the invention of the camera 125 years ago were immediately grasped by the painter. Here was an instrument that could reproduce the “real” world more easily, more cheaply and with greater fidelity than the paint brush. One could, flippantly, say that from that moment on the “real” world was conceded to the camera, and a new world began to be created by the painters.

    But today the photographer, as well as the painter, has turned his back on the real world (though few photographers have looked as sharply at our neon-and-hamburger society as, say, the Pop painter) and


    The Photographer And The American Landscape, San Francisco Museum Of Art:

    Two years ago, John Szarkowski replaced Edward Steichen as Director of the Photography Department at the Museum of Modern Art, and “The American Landscape” is the first major exhibit prepared under his direction. It is, in fact, the first important traveling show to come to the Bay Area since “The Bitter Years,” the photographs of the Farm Security Administration, an exhibit edited by Steichen and shown here in 1963.

    “The American Landscape” is a big, sprawling show, spanning almost a hundred years. It is not a unified,


    Eliot Porter, De Young Museum: The magnificent scenery of western North America has given impetus to a peculiar local phenomenon we might call the “Conservation School.” In 1871, William H. Jackson accompanied an expedition to the Rocky Mountain region, and his photographs convinced skeptical congressmen—who had previously believed the verbal descriptions of the Yellowstone area were as fantastic and as false as the tales brought back to Europe by the early spice traders—that the scenery was truly as remarkable as it had been described, and persuaded them that the area must be set aside as a

  • Imogen Cunningham at the San Francisco Museum of Art

    The first successful photographs were made between 1835 and 1840 (Daguerre’s photograph of the corner of his studio is dated 1837, and his daguerreotype process was described to the Academy of Sciences in Paris in 1839), and for almost 65 years, half the entire history of the medium, Imogen Cunningham has made photographs. She was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1883, and when she was six years old, she moved with her family to Seattle. In 1900, she saw reproductions of photographs by Gertrude Kasebier, who was later a member of Photo-Secession, and she dreamed of becoming a photographer as good

  • Bruce Goodell at the Richmond Art Center

    Goodell’s gimmick (bits and snippets of the world: license plates, shingles, a hinge on a gate, the signs on buses) has entrapped many young photographers. Seen and expressed by an intensely philosophical, intensely imaginative photographer, Aaron Siskind perhaps, the bits of the world may embody many things, humor, sadness, horror. Goodell, like many others, has photographed almost at random, and the lack of imagination and emphasis has reduced simplicity to insignificance.

    ––Margery Mann

  • Oscar Maurer at the Oakland Art Museum

    The history and legends of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906, have given rise to such a vast body of “Earthquakeana”––pictures, books, films––that one more exhibit might seem superfluous. The current show at the Oakland Museum, twenty photographs by Oscar Maurer, is, however, such a splendid, moving representation of the chaos and destruction that followed the catastrophe that it is well worth seeing.

    Maurer, who is now 94 years old, began to photograph in the 1890s. The Museum shows a small album of his platinum prints––portraits and landscapes––made before 1900; and early


    Photography in the Fine Arts, IV, De Young Museum: The current exhibit, like its three predecessors, pays tired tribute to a jury selected for eminent respectability rather than for understanding of the medium. This year—perhaps because six of the jurors chose prints for the previous show and are thus familiar with what photographs look like, perhaps because Beaumont Newhall, Director of George Eastman House, a man who does know photography, was a juror—fewer photographs imitate paintings. Many more of them imitate previous photographs.

    Few of the photographs seem to have been made because the


    Joseph A. Barnett, Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento: Barnett’s photographs, “Sacramento Then and Now,” are described in the introduction as the Crocker Gallery’s “first documentary exhibition to focus upon the reality of the city today”—certainly an ambitious program, and one wonders how Barnett can carry it out with only thirty-two prints. When one studies the show, one sees that for Barnett reality—probably better, Reality—means primarily the West End, Sacramento’s Skid Row, with its flop houses and pawn shops, and a scattering of the people who live there. A few of his photographs illustrate

  • Our San Francisco at the San Francisco Museum of Art

    EVERY YEAR, AT CHRISTMAS TIME, competing with the expen­sive publications of glossy reproduc­tions of the paintings of Botticelli and the inevitable volumes of carefully-­diagrammed instructions for cooking just like Escoffier in your own kitchen­ette, there is, of course, a book about San Francisco. From this year’s ex­ample, “Our San Francisco,” published by Diablo Press, the San Francisco Mu­seum of Art is showing ten photographs by each of the five photographers whose work is included, Ernest Braun, Jacqueline Paul, Michael Bry, Jerry Stoll, and Phiz Mozesson. The book’s text is by San

  • Fred Padula at the San Francisco Museum of Art

    LIKE WYNN BULLOCK, with whom he has worked, Padula makes color abstractions with, perhaps, broken glass reflecting and refracting the pat­terns of colored lights. Like Bullock, he is imitating the obsolescent forms of Abstract Expressionism. Since Padu­la at one time studied painting, his prints are more successful pretend-paintings than Bullock’s, but one can­not help feeling that his concern is primarily the mysterious technique (“I’ll bet they won’t be able to figure out how I made these”) than the emo­tional impact. The prints are very pretty.

    Margery Mann