First Major Museum Retrospective for Modern Photographer Wynn Bullock Since 1970s to be Mounted by High Museum of Art
October 17, 2013
Comprehensive exhibition will coincide with extensive gift of work by Bullock to the High
Atlanta, GA, October 17, 2013 – In summer 2014, the High Museum of Art will become the first major museum in nearly 40 years to mount a retrospective of work by Wynn Bullock (1902-1975) with the exhibition “Wynn Bullock: Revelations,” organized by the High in collaboration with the Center for Creative Photography. One of the most significant photographers of the mid-20th century, Bullock worked in the American modernist tradition alongside Edward Weston, Harry Callahan and Ansel Adams. More than 100 black-and-white and color works by Bullock will come together for the exhibition, which will coincide with a major gift to the High from the Bullock Estate of a large collection of vintage photographs, making the High one of the most significant repositories of Bullock’s work in the country.
The High is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast with particularly distinct holdings in the classic modernist tradition. “Wynn Bullock: Revelations” offers an unprecedentedly holistic look at Bullock’s innovative career, beginning with his early light abstractions and moving through his landscapes, figure studies, color work, negative images and late abstractions. The exhibition will be on view beginning in June 2014.
A close friend of influential West Coast artists Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, and a contemporary of Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham and Frederick Sommer, Bullock created a body of work marked by a distinct interest in experimentation, abstraction and philosophical exploration. His pictures “Let There Be Light” and “Child in Forest” (both of which will be included in the High’s exhibition) have become icons in the history of photography following their prominent inclusion in Edward Steichen’s landmark 1955 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, “The Family of Man.”
Bullock’s photography received early recognition in 1941, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art staged his first solo exhibition. His mature work appeared in one-man shows at the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; the Royal Photographic Society, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago; among other prestigious venues. His archive was a foundational collection for the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Az., which is recognized as one of the most important photographic resources in the world.
Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows. “Wynn Bullock: Revelations” offers the most comprehensive assessment of the photographer’s extraordinary career in nearly 40 years. This retrospective traces Bullock’s evolution from his early experimental work of the 1940s, through the mysterious black-and-white imagery of the 1950s and color light abstractions of the 1960s, to his late metaphysical photographs of the 1970s.
“Bullock’s arresting work was integral to codifying what we now think of as quintessential mid-century style, which in turn paved the way for every stage of photography that has followed,” said Brett Abbott, curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “Presenting this exhibition and acquiring this generous body of work from Bullock’s estate will allow us to play a role in bringing him back into the popular consciousness. Our photography department has expanded greatly over the last few years, in terms of the work we own and the exhibitions we mount, giving us the ability to position this pivotal body of work as part of the nearly two-century-long story of the development of photography.”
The High’s Department of Photography comprises an extensive collection of images dating from the mid-19th century. Three key works by Bullock are already part of the collection, and a gift of more than 100 works from the Bullock Estate will make the Museum the largest repository of his work in the Eastern United States. The Museum’s collection also includes works by Adams, Callahan, Laughlin and Weston and the generations of photographers who have followed them, providing a comprehensive context for Bullock’s work.
“Wynn Bullock: Revelations” will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue to be produced by the High in collaboration with the University of Texas Press. The book presents 110 images, including some from the Bullock Estate that have never been published before. An essay by Abbott explores the nuances of Bullock’s approach to photography and its fascinating relationship to the history of science and philosophy. The volume also includes an illustrated chronology, bibliography, selected collections, exhibitions history, plate list and notes.
High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art is the leading art museum in the Southeastern U.S. With more than 13,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. For more information, visit high.org.
About Wynn Bullock
Wynn Bullock was born on April 18, 1902, in Chicago, Ill. After graduating from high school, Bullock worked as a professional singer in New York City and across Europe. In 1938 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a law degree but soon dropped out of school to become a photography student at Art Center School, where he became deeply involved in exploring alternative processes such as solarization and bas relief and began building a career in commercial photography. Bullock went on to serve in the military and then to build a successful private photography business, where he developed a way to control the line effect of solarization, a discovery for which he was awarded patents. Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Throughout the 1950s he explored the natural world from his own unique perspective in photography and came into the public spotlight through exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s he created an innovative body of abstract color images. He later returned to experimental black and white, on which he continued to focus until his death in 1975. Bullock’s work is part of the collections of more than 90 major institutions throughout the world.
Photography at the High
The High Museum of Art is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast. The museum began acquiring photographs in the early 1970s, making it one of the earliest American art museums to commit to collecting the medium. Today, photography is the largest and fastest growing collection at the High. With more than 5,400 prints, holdings focus on American work of the 20th and 21st centuries, with special strength in modernist traditions, documentary genre and contemporary photography. Holdings include the most significant museum collection of vintage Civil Rights-era prints in the nation, as well as important holdings by Harry Callahan, Clarence John Laughlin, William Christenberry, Ralph Gibson, Richard Misrach, Walker Evans and Peter Sekaer. The collection also gives special attention to pictures made in and of the South, serving as the largest and most significant repository representing the region’s important contributions to the history of photography. Since 1996, the High’s distinctive “Picturing the South” initiative has commissioned established and emerging photographers to produce work inspired by the area’s geographical and cultural landscape. Past participants include Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Emmet Gowin, Alex Webb and Alec Soth, whose commissions have all been added to the High’s permanent collection.
The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is ranked among the top four arts centers in the nation. The Woodruff is unique in that it combines four visual and performing arts divisions on one campus as one not-for-profit organization. Opened in 1968, The Woodruff Arts Center is home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, and Young Audiences. To learn more about The Woodruff Arts Center, please visit www.woodruffcenter.org.
Center for Creative Photography
The Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, is recognized as one of the world’s finest academic art museums and study centers for the history of photography. Beginning with the archives of five living master photographers – Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer – the collection has grown to include 239 archival collections. Among these are some of the most recognizable names in 20th century North American photography: W. Eugene Smith, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Edward Weston, and Garry Winogrand. Wynn Bullock was one of the founding photographers whose archives established the Center in 1975. His archive consists of 223 prints and 90 linear feet of archival materials that offer significant information on the exhibition, publication and sale of Bullock’s photographs; his experiments with solarization; his involvement with the Friends of Photography; and his teaching activities. Altogether there are over five million archival objects in the Center’s collection including negatives, work prints, contact sheets, albums, scrapbooks, correspondence, writings, audiovisual materials and memorabilia. In addition to whole archival collections the Center also actively acquires individual photographs by modern and contemporary photographers. There are currently more than 90,000 works by over 2,000 photographers. A library of books, journals, and exhibition and auction catalogs including many rare publications plus an extensive oral history collection complements the archival and fine print collections. The combined art, archival, and research collections at the Center provide an unparalleled resource for exhibitions, loans, and traveling exhibitions. For more information, visit www.creativephotography.org.
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