The Modern Lens

The Modern Lens, a new show at Cornwall’s Tate St Ives, examines how international photography developed from the 1920s to the 1960s, looking at how photographers from different countries engaged with the influences of abstraction, constructivism and surrealism.

Claude Cahun 1894-1954, I Extend My Arms 1931 or 1932

Source: Tate © The estate of Claude Cahun

Claude Cahun 1894-1954, I Extend My Arms 1931 or 1932

This will be the largest exhibition of photography the space has ever hosted, and marks the first time the gallery has shown the work of a number of artists from the Americas and Japan.

According to Tate St Ives, “the exhibition uncovers the sense of curiosity and experimentation as artists harnessed the medium in new ways.”

It adds: “Photography was used to explore ideas of abstraction, developed in tandem with the emergence of wider Modernist languages across the globe.

“It also demonstrated the significance of a local perspective, as artists combined the broad influences of abstraction, constructivism and surrealism with their own contexts.”

The four-decade period the exhibition covers is a fascinating one for photography, showing how the medium reacted to wider movements in Modernism and abstraction.

Among the works on show will be Latin American photography by Geraldo de Barros and Thomaz Farkas, whose work played with constructed forms, shape and light.

Fernand Léger, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand Les Objets à Réaction Poetique 1931 – 6

Source: © the estate of Charlotte Perriand ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014

Fernand Léger, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte PerriandLes Objets à Réaction Poetique 1931 – 6

A photographic sequence from the 1930s by architect and designer Charlotte Perriand, artist Fernand Léger and architect Pierre Jeanneret will be shown in relation to work by British artists including Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore created in the same period; demonstrating their explorations and conflations of surrealism and abstraction.

György Kepes, 1906-2001 Hand on Black Ground c. 1939-40

Source: Tate © estate of György Kepes

György Kepes, 1906-2001Hand on Black Ground c. 1939-40

Another highlight will be the photograms, prints and film footage of Bauhaus artists such as the school’s tutors László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Peterhans and their students. This will be presented in a way that links the school’s work to that of migrant modernist photographers such as Iwao Yamawaki from Japan and the Hungarian Judith Kárász.

There are images of rural landscapes, organic formations, manmade objects and industrial materials, as well as of urban architecture.”

Tate collection runs from 14 October  ­ 10 May 2015 at Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1TG

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