Henry Gaudier-Greene – Edward Weston and the Origin of the World (iii) featuring Kelsey Dylan (2014)
Early this year Gaudier-Greene was asked whether he had any New Year’s resolutions; he announced his desire [t]o develop a better working relationship with midtones.
It struck me as an odd self-deprecating joke–coming from someone virtually unrivaled in the using color photographically to claim controlling B&W midtones to present a challenge after he’s used them to stunning effect (thinking specifically of his collaboration with Tanya Dakin: The Beginning of Mod, emphasis on this gem).
I suspect it is largely just that but it’s also an interesting and probably entirely unconscious framing device. Let me see if I can show my work for that assertion.
Looking at this gorgeous photo oblivious to the title recalls Goya’s La maja desnuda and Modigliani’s Reclining Nude.
Now, when I look at the title I dart in the opposite direction–away from painting as a means of transcending the ephemeral one-to-one nature of sensuality and towards the physicality of father shot/son printed green peppers and graphic nudity, i.e. the visual documentation of explicit bodies as a means of exploring the erotics of metonymy.
I don’t think such misdirection is misplaced. But I also don’t think it’s accidental. I’m not quite sure how to ground a further explanation of what I mean in Gaudier-Greene’s work, so let me take the half-assed route of the intellectually disingenuous: I see a number of parallels between Gaudier-Greene and Edgar Degas. But for the purposes of this explanation, I’ll limit myself to one. Degas set out to be a historical painter, he is now lumped in with the Impressionists–despite wide variance and in some cases outright antagonism to their practices.
In truth he was both a historical painter and an Impressionist; at the same time, he was never truly either. He was more radical and subversive than any category. It seems to me that in an effort to fit within the photographic tradition, Gaudier-Greene tends to point to the less obviously discernible influences he’s pinned to his sleeve while the audience fawns in awe over the calm and stubborn purity of beauty in the work.
Gaudier green is a photographer par excellence and a capital A artist. He has on at least three occasions made me swear to give up photography and on half a dozen others caused me to swear eternal fealty to it.