Imogen Cunningham's "Flax"

Imogen Cunningham, Flax, 1926. J. Paul Getty Museum. (c) The Imogen Cunningham Trust

Approximately in the middle of the Getty Center's "Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective," on a wall of its own, is an image that will challenge everything you know about Cunningham's art. Titled Flax, it is a uniquely reductive work that now reads as a portent of minimalism, a zip against a void. It is a kind of picture that almost no one else was making in 1926. Yet it was contemporary with Cunningham's lush botanical studies of magnolias, aloes, and agaves. 

The Getty exhibition, the first comprehensive reappraisal of the artist in 35 years, reminds us how radical Cunningham often was. From the machine-age Shredded Wheat Tower (1928) to the documentation of Ruth Asawa's wire sculptures (1950s) to the Tracey Emin absence of The Unmade Bed (1957) to the Weegee weirdness of Self-Portrait with Grandchildren in Funhouse (1955) and A Man Ray Version of Man Ray (1961), Cunningham was not only on the cutting edge but often years ahead of it.

Installation view, "Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective." The hanging sculpture at back is an untitled 1963 piece by Ruth Asawa, lent by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


I admit ignorance about her art. That's why I was flummoxed by what I was looking at with the image of her Flax of 1926 in the Getty Museum collection.

I had to Google to learn the medium she used: Gelatin silver print.

Honestly, I thought it was a sculpture, until i read you describe it as a "picture." "Photo" would have been more illuminative.

I vote for disclosing media in object identifications.
Anonymous said…
Duchamp is NOT "almost no one else."

In his Tu m' (1918), there's a rip on the canvas which Duchamp sutures with safety pins.

As the story goes, Duchamp got the idea in part from Cezanne's The Bathers (Philadelphia Museum of Art). It literalizes the "nothing" that is the object of the bather's attention in that painting.

It also literalizes what the viewer does when he looks at a painting. Vision cuts (rips) through the picture plane.
Re the comment, immediately above: ..."Duchamp got the idea in part from Cezanne's The Bathers (Philadelphia Museum of Art).":
It's a happy coincidence that one of Duchamp's ideas was inspired by a work now in the Philly collection; no place on Earth is a more important mecca than Philly for Duchamp's oeuvre. Full stop.
Jose 813 said…
Thank you for including information about the hanging sculpture! My eye went right there in the image and I was pleased to see that it was identified as a complimentary object in the exhibition.