Jennifer Blessing, Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection (Guggenheim Foundation, 2004), pp. 54 and 203
Leland Rice and Beaumont Newhall, herbert bayer: photographic works (Los Angeles: ARCO Center for Visual Art, 1977), pl. 62
Matthew S. Witkovsky, Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945 (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2007), fig. 97, p. 120
Bayer’s process for creating his fotoplastiken (literally 'photo sculptures') was a complex and varied one. In some instances, he photographed objects in his studio; he also used found imagery. A meticulous craftsman, Bayer combined these photographs, expertly assembling all of the elements into a homogenous composition. Bayer’s handling of Lonely Metropolitan is masterful. In it, several photographic components are collaged together and carefully accentuated with black and gray gouache applied by hand and airbrush. Bayer made extensive use of gouache to create the shadows behind the hands, which throw them into greater relief, giving them an almost three-dimensional appearance. Bayer similarly blended the eyes seamlessly into the palms of the hands.
Throughout Bayer's brief career as a photographer, which lasted roughly from 1926 to 1938, he consistently pushed the medium's boundaries, and continually approached his compositions with intelligence, imagination, and a sly sense of humor. In Lonely Metropolitan, eyes stare from the palms of hands that float in midair within an urban courtyard. In Self-Portrait (ibid., pl. 64), the photographer looks in mock horror as he removes a portion of his arm in front of a mirror to reveal not flesh and bone, but an opaque stone-like interior.
Lonely Metropolitan is perhaps Bayer's most famous fotoplastik. Like the best of Bayer's fotoplastiken and photomontages, Lonely Metropolitan depends for its impact not only upon a precise Bauhaus-inspired handling of materials, but also upon a clever juxtaposition of disparate images that creates a dreamlike totality bordering on the Surreal. Within the context of the Buhl Collection, in which hands are the consistent motif, the pairing of the eyes with the hands serves as an especially poetic comment on one collector’s approach to the medium.
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