BERENICE ABBOTT: THE VISUAL STORY OF A TIME OF CHANGE

In the 20s of the last century, Paris continued to have an undeniable power of attraction for the cultural movements of the time. And this was true although the United States, and especially New York, was beginning to emerge as a reference country in full artistic effervescence. The ravages of the successive wars tipped the balance of art in favour of North America, an extensive land, far from direct conflict, not yet worn down by the weight of history and with a promising future of multitudinous shows and film industry ahead.

Berenice Abbott, Aerial view of New York at Night, March 20th, 1936, International Center of Photography, Gift of Daniel, Richard, and Jonathan Logan, 1984 (786.1984) © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

But let’s get back to the 20s. Back then, the Art Nouveau was last shining in Europe while in New York, the Art Decó appeared, by urban design and stylish skyscrapers, to make this city an emblem. The connection between both metropolis based on an exchange of free thought shown in the arts and architecture. Perhaps few were aware at the time that the builders of the Rockefeller Center or the Chrysler Building were making history. The Gilger Age echoed still, a time between the end of s. XIX and early S. XX where the great family monopolies of the North American industry were born around important innovations such as the railroad, the exploitation of steel, the vast corn harvests, the livestock production and other significant advances in the hands of a few. The empowered families became great art collectors and unconscionable builders who wanted to demonstrate their power by raising taller and more iconic buildings. They succeeded.

Berenice Abbott, West Street, 1932, International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lois and Bruce Zenkel Purchase Fund, 1983 (388.1983) © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

The beginning of the century was a breeding ground suitable for artists. The stimuli multiplied, and the options seemed endless. Despite this, old Europe still represented the bohemian refuge, the place where the environment of creation was appropriated to restless minds because there were tradition, history and shared story, away from the sudden boiling of New York built overnight and based on galloping capitalism, the prelude to the Crack of 29. That's why many American creators laid vital bridges between Paris and the American city. This was the case of Berenice Abbott, a photographer born in Ohio in 1898 who let her talent flow to both sides of the Ocean.

Berenice Abbott, Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place, 1936, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

Abbott worked on the portrait of celebrities, but for the documentary, not for dedication to entertainment and social reporting. She was interested in the representation of reality, without artifice, and was part of the movement of "direct photography" that claimed the artistic nature of this discipline without needing to intervene or compose the images. Her shots of New York and Paris are today invaluable documents that testify the vertiginous changes that both cities experienced. As thematic reports, her work allows us to know today a historical context full of misery, hope and ambition, in which the foundations of modern society were built. Although Abbott's artistic beginnings focused on sculpture, her connection with other artists of the moment and her interest in the representation of reality led her to try out photography, a discipline that she never left ever again.

Berenice Abbott, Rockefeller Center, ca. 1932, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott

The Mapfre Foundation dedicates to this artist its next exhibition "Berenice Abbott. Portraits of modernity ", which will open on June 1. The show brings together about 200 pieces of this indefatigable creator who made Paris and New York her spiritual homeland.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.