Although sculpture is a three-dimensional form that needs to be seen to be experienced, it’s normally reproduced through photography. Since the inception of photography, artists and photographers have used the camera to not only capture sculptural forms on film but to stage scenes with objects and document performances that now only exist in print. Likewise, artists have long used photomontage to construct sculptural fantasies purely from the imagination. Examining the intersections between photography and sculpture, The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art offers new ways of understanding what sculpture is, as well as a chance to explore the aesthetic evolution of photography through its rich, 170-year history.
Without following a chronological order, the show is organized around ten conceptual compartments that allow its curator, Roxana Marcoci, to expose shared interests between artists of different generations and to isolate moments in time, such as the collaboration between Rodin and various photographers documenting his work and Brancusi’s use of photography to capture his sculptures and studio in another light. The section “Cultural and Political Icons” focuses on images of statues and symbols, both revered and hated, while “Studio Without Walls” investigates documentation of Land Art and artistic urban interventions. Meanwhile, the “Pygmalion Complex” presents surrealist images from the movement’s heyday to its later embrace by contemporary artists as a means to confound the viewer.
Displaying over 300 photographs, magazines, and journals by more than 100 artists — ranging from William Fox Talbot and Eugene Atget to Bruce Nauman and Rachel Harrison — The Original Copy grants viewers the opportunity to reconsider the development of photography from the perspective of the digital age, while gaining a new awareness of the changing definition of sculpture throughout time.
The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, which is accompanied by a catalogue, is on view at MoMA through November 1.
Click through below for a gallery of images.
Bruce Nauman. American, born 1941 Self-Portrait as a Fountain from the portfolio Eleven Color Photographs. 1966–67/1970 Inkjet print (originally chromogenic color print), 20 1/16 x 23 3/4" (50.9 x 60.3 cm) Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Gerald S. Elliott Collection © 2010 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Sibylle Bergemann. German, born 1941 Das Denkmal, East Berlin (The monument, East Berlin). 1986 Gelatin silver print, 19 11/16 x 23 5/8" (50 x 60 cm) Sibylle Bergemann/Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin © 2010 Sibylle Bergemann/Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin
Gillian Wearing. British, born 1963 Self-Portrait at 17 Years Old. 2003 Chromogenic color print, 41 x 32" (104.1 x 81.3 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art © 2010 Gillian Wearing. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Maureen Paley, London
Hans Finsler. Swiss, 1891–1972 Gropius and Moholy-Nagy as Goethe and Schiller, f.r.t.l., 1925 Gelatin silver print, 9 1/8 x 6 3/4" (23.2 x 17.2 cm) Kunsthaus Zürich, Fotosammlung
Fischli/Weiss (Peter Fischli. Swiss, born 1952. David Weiss. Swiss, born 1946) The Three Sisters. 1984 Chromogenic color print, 11 13/16 x 15 ¾" (30 x 40 cm) Courtesy the artists and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York © Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Herbert Bayer. American, born Austria. 1900–1985 Humanly Impossible. 1932 Gelatin silver print, 15 3/8 x 11 9/16" (39 x 29.3 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Purchase © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Robert Gober. American, born 1954 Untitled. 1999 Gelatin silver print, 9 13/16 x 12 3/8" (25 x 31.5 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel © 1999 Robert Gober
Horst P. Horst. American, born Germany, 1906–1999 Costume for Salvador Dalí’s “Dream of Venus”. 1939 Gelatin silver print, 10 x 7 1/2" (25.4 x 19 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby © 2010 Horst P. Horst/Art + Commerce
Rachel Harrison. American, born 1966 From Voyage of the Beagle. 2007 Fifty-seven pigmented inkjet prints, each 16 x 12" (40.6 x 30.5 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century © 2010 Rachel Harrison. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York
Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky). American, 1890–1976 Noire et blanche (Black and white). 1926 Gelatin silver print, 6 3/4 x 8 7/8" (17.1 x 22.5 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby © 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
Johannes Theodor Baargeld (Alfred Emanuel Ferdinand Gruenwald). German, 1892–1927 Typische Vertikalklitterung als Darstellung des Dada Baargeld (Typical vertical mess as depiction of the Dada Baargeld). 1920 Photomontage, 14 5/8 x 12 3/16" (37.1 x 31 cm) Kunsthaus Zürich, Grafische Sammlung
Alfred Stieglitz. American, 1864–1946 Fountain, photograph of assisted readymade by Marcel Duchamp. 1917 Gelatin silver print, 9 1/4 x 7" (23.5 x 17.8 cm) Collection Jacqueline Matisse Monnier © 2010 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York