Werner Rohde, Self-portrait, Silver gelatin print 1926
WERNER ROHDE (1906-1990) Germany
Silver gelatin print, ebonized wood frame
Signed: Werner Rohde 1926 (pencil signature and date on back on photo); inv. 3RMG 1081.27
Photo: H: 6 13/16” x W: 4 15/16”
Framed: H: 16 5/16” x W: 14 3/8”
Werner Rohde’s visual play with the animate and inanimate draws him close to the aesthetics of the surrealists while maintaining a strong alignment with Germany’s new-vision avant-garde. Rohde experimented widely with double exposures, photomontage, perspective and dramatic lighting that reflected his interest in filmic effects. The son of a glass painter (a medium he would turn to later in life), Rohde took up photography during his studies at the Arts and Craft School in Halle. Like Kesting, Willy Zielke and Kretschmer, he participated in the 1929 ‘Film und foto’ exhibition in Stuttgart that remains one of the historical focal points for Germany’s new photographic vision. Despite this early recognition of his work, Rohde fell into obscurity after the war until the rediscovery of his photographs in the mid 1970s.
Rohde’s fascination with the play between life and lifeless, animate and inanimate, has strong reverberations with surrealism. Masks, mannequins and paper models were used in his photographs to illuminate the uncanny. They were also employed in his self-portraiture in which he mimicked his idol Charlie Chaplin. These techniques of visual illusion provided a mnemonic tool for the images of his wife in which she is posed and photographed to resemble a doll or mannequin. In the act of art imitating life, ‘Wachspuppenkopf’ is uncanny in its mimicry of the human form with realistic teeth, eyes, skin and even the unusual detail of small wrinkles under the eyes. The downward angle, lighting and odd doubling of the neckline utilizes standard surrealist methods to infer life and movement.
DONALD DESKEY (1894-1989) USA
Silver gelatin print, ebonized textured wood frame
Provenance: The Estate of Donald Deskey
H: 9 7/8” x W: 7 15/16”
Framed: H: 22” x W: 18”
Donald Deskey was a native of Blue Earth, Minnesota. He studied architecture at the University of California, but did not follow that profession, becoming instead an artist and a pioneer in the field of Industrial design. In Paris he attended the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which influenced his approach to design. He established a design consulting firm in New York City, and later the firm of Deskey-Vollmer (in partnership with Phillip Vollmer) which specialized in furniture and textile design. His designs in this era progressed from Art Deco to Streamline Moderne.
He first gained note as a designer when he created window displays for the Franklin Simon Department Store in Manhattan in 1926. In the 1930's, he won the competition to design the interiors for Radio City Music Hall. In the 1940's he started the graphic design firm Donald Deskey Associates and made some of the most recognizable icons of the day. He designed the Crest toothpaste packaging, as well as the Tide bullseye. His company is still in operation in Cincinnati. A collection of his work is held by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. He is regarded the American pioneer of industrial design, and contemporary American graphic design.
GRANT MUDFORD (1944- ) Australia
Long Beach 1979
Gelatin silver print
Signed: Long Beach 1979, LB-24/2 (in pencil on back); Grant Mudford 1980 (script in ink)
Framed size: H: 28 ¼” x W: 32 7/16”
“Since he moved to Los Angeles from Australia in the late 1970s, Grant Mudford has composed photographs that crisply examine the streamlined geometries of West Coast architecture and landscape. Mudford has zeroed in on the abstract formal relationships lurking within the designs of gas stations, strip malls and apartment buildings. The geometrical arrangements highlighted in his photographs of the masterful modernist structures of Rudolf Schindler and Craig Ellwood have disclosed a link between their midcentury architecture and the contemporaneous hard-edge abstractions of L.A. painters John McLaughlin and Lorser Feitelson.” – Art in America, “Grand Mudford at Rosamund Felsen, September 2003