Last week for Duane Michals show at the Carnegie | Blogh

Last week for Duane Michals show at the Carnegie

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This huge career retrospective about the pioneering, McKeesport-born photographer closes next Monday.

Duane Michals; Magritte with Hat, 1965; Gelatin silver print with hand applied text; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery
  • Duane Michals; Magritte with Hat, 1965; Gelatin silver print with hand applied text; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery
Leave a couple hours to take in this sprawling show: If Michals' technique of writing on his prints to expand their meaning was innovative, it also makes Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals a little slower to absorb than a typical photography exhibit.

It's worth your time, though, especially because Michals is among the more influential artists to come out of this neck of the woods. 

Aside from writing on his photos, he's best known for pushing photography out of the realm of documenting "decisive moments" and into the world of fiction, narrative and fantasy. And most if not all of his key sequential works are here, from the deceptively creepy "The Bogeyman" to the terse "A Chance Encounter" and the sly but cryptically moving "Grandmother and Odette Visit the Park." And don't miss "Things Are Queer," a capital bit of conceptual humor.

There are also some great single images, like the wrenching "The Unfortunate Man," about sexuality repressed.

Still, some of my favorites were Michals' portraits.

Yes, you know the cover of The Police album Synchronicity (most of whose 36 variations are on display here). And yes, Michals himself said, "I've never believed people are what they look like and think it's impossible to really know what people are."

But you're bound to enjoy his attempts to capture artists like Duchamp, Magritte, Truffaut, DeKooning and Warhol, and perhaps especially his eerie rendering of Joseph Cornell as a kind of wraith of light. Among performers, there's Jeanne Moreau and and, circa 1970, an oddly (or perhaps not) baleful-looking Bill Cosby.

While you're there, take a few minutes to peruse Duane Michals: Collector, an exhibit of work Michals himself liked enough to buy. I found especially intriguing George Platt Lynes' "Paul Cadnis, Jared French, and George Toober," a 1945 photo that is both plainly staged and dramatically suggestive enough to echo Michals' own work (though years before he began making photos, let alone working in that style). The "Collector" show is actually up until March 2.

Meanwhile, Storyteller also includes another bit of related programming: tomorrow night's Culture Club: Image to Word — A Public Reading, featuring writings presenting original stories from a workshop based on Michals' images.

The Carnegie Museum of Art is located at 4400 Forbes Ave., in Oakland. Admission is $11.95-17.95 (free for kids under age 3).


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