The Art Institute of Chicago, Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971, March - May 2002; and traveling thereafter to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July - October 2002; and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, December 2002 - March 2003
Lausanne, Switzerland, Musée de l'Elysée, Ray Metzker: Light Lines, November 2007 - January 2008; and traveling thereafter to Preus Museum, Horten, Norway, June - October 2008; and Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan, October - November 2008
This unique work:
David Travis and Elizabeth Siegel, eds., Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971 (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2002), pl. 185
Ray Metzker: Light Lines (Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, and Steidl, 2008), p. 111
This unique work, composed of 140 individual photographs mounted together, is from a series initiated in 1964, when Metzker began combining multiple images into the larger works he called Composites. Viewed from afar, the photograph reads as a large-scale graphic black-and-white abstraction. Closer inspection reveals that the subject of each photograph is a silhouetted female nude. Each image is identical, and each is fitted to its neighbor with exacting precision. The work embodies a kind of perfect photographic minimalism: a minimalism that, like the musical compositions of Philip Glass or Steve Reich, is built from a teeming multiplicity of elements. Metzker himself spoke of the rhythmic quality of the Composites: 'At this time I was reaching into music and into flux . . . Percussion, the playing of one beat against the next, began to translate into the photographs' (Unknown Territories, p. 123).
Tall Grove of Nudes was made in 1966, the year Metzker was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his photographic work. He wrote, 'I have found myself discontented with the single, fixed-frame image, the isolated moment that seemingly is the dominant concern of still photography today' (ibid.). Few photographers have channeled their restlessness with the single photographic image so productively. Working solely in the gelatin-silver medium, Metzker has, over six decades, created a vastly diverse body of work that incorporates, in addition to single photographic images, the multi-image compositions comprising the series Double Frame, Couplets, and the Composites.
Metzker received a Bachelor's degree in fine art from Beloit College, Wisconsin, in 1953. After serving in the Army in Korea, he enrolled at Chicago's Institute of Design in 1956, where he studied under Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and (briefly) Frederick Sommer. The school's curriculum, set by its founder László Moholy-Nagy, emphasized experimentation, and this is a quality that has stamped Metzker's work ever since. He was one of six young, iconoclastic photographers featured in the epochal 1967 exhibition, The Persistence of Vision, at the George Eastman House, along with Robert Heinecken, Jerry Uelsmann, John Wood, and Charles Gill and Donald Blumberg. That same year, John Szarkowski presented a solo exhibition of Metzker's Composites at The Museum of Modern Art. In 1969, the Smithsonian Institution acquired two Composites.
As unique works, the Composites are rare on the market. It is believed Tall Grove of Nudes is the first unique Composite to appear at auction.
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