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Recent Acquisitions in Photography: Hiroh Kikai, Andy Warhol, Walker Evans, Mario Cravo Neto

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2008
Emily Shubert, Assistant Curator, Special Projects

Hiroh Kikai is a contemporary Japanese photographer renowned for his black-andwhite portraits of people in Asakusa, Tokyo, a neighborhood with a colorful past now known for both traditional comedy theater and some of the most innovative burlesque in the world. Over the past three decades, Kikai has created an extensive and unforgettable series of street portraits from the diverse mass of people who pass through this district. Posed against the stark walls of the temple, the subjects of his impromptu portraits radiate a sense of hardwon individuality. Kikai’s ability to capture essential character with an economy of photographic means is evident in the Hood’s recent acquisitions A Middle School Student who was Walking Alone in a Crowd of People, 1998, and An Old Man with a Penetrating Gaze (wearing a face mask), 2001. Both images, from Kikai’s series of portraits titled Persona, were made possible through a generous gift from Andrew E. Lewin, Class of 1981.

An unprecedented donation made through the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program to 183 college and university art museums across the United States has allowed the Hood to enrich its wonderful collection of works by Andy Warhol. This gift includes 153 photographs (both Polaroid and black-and-white prints) taken from 1973 to 1985 of various subjects including Olympic skater Dorothy Hamill, art collector Steve Rubel, musician John Denver, fashion designer Carolina Herrara, and celebrity Candy Spelling. Warhol’s Polaroids provide a wealth of information about the artist’s process as well as his interactions with his sitters. Not only was the Polaroid camera an essential element in the making of Warhol’s silkscreen paintings, but the photograph is also the basis for his appropriated pop culture images. However, these images also testify to the artist’s hand, revealing Warhol as a photographer and the Polaroid as an artistic statement. Through his rigorous consistency in shooting these portraits, the idiosyncrasies of his subjects are revealed.

Early in his career as a photographer, Walker Evans developed a straightforward documentary style. Frontal, concisely plain, and remote yet passionate, his images have a lyrical quality that is free of sentiment. In 1972, Walker Evans became the first artist-in-residence in photography at Dartmouth College. The artist began his residency by traveling around the Upper Valley with Dartmouth Professor of Studio Art Varujan Boghosian and Director of Visual Studies Matthew Wysocki in order to take pictures and visit antique shops. The deserted kitchen, vacant living room, and crumpled bed that Evans frames so carefully offer both a meditative reflection on the everyday and a revealing slice of Americana. In this series donated to the Hood, four images depict the interior of the home of Mr. Alfred Petersen, an antiques dealer in Enfield, New Hampshire. Three other photographs by Wysocki show Evans with Petersen in his barn, offering a revealing look into the photographer’s way of working and providing a rich context for the images of Petersen’s home.

Brazilian photographer Mario Cravo Neto was originally trained as a sculptor, first gaining attention for installations that juxtaposed animate and inanimate objects in a variety of relationships. This conceptual background continues to inform Neto’s photography. His images are primarily concerned with documenting the artist’s homeland of Bahia in northeastern Brazil and its rich cultural heritage. With Christian with Bird, 1991, the artist underscores the tactile quality of the bird’s feathers held against his subject’s skin through the use of exquisite detail and dramatic lighting. A sublime yet unsettling joining of man and nature dominates this photograph, as reality, rituals, and a sense of magic combine to haunt its elegant forms. This work was selected for acquisition out of a range of Latin American photographs by students in the Museum Collecting 101 class.

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