LOS ANGELES, CA.-
Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance, at the J. Paul Getty Museum
, the Getty Center, March 31 August 9, 2009, showcases the work of photographer Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 18961958), considered a visionary for his use of color and his efforts to raise advertising photography to the status of art. More than 100 prints illustrate his creative and technical mastery of the medium: from his early still life compositions in platinum, which quickly established his reputation, to his vibrant later color photographs of female nudes, which were considered too provocative to be shown in museums during his lifetime.
We are fortunate to have a large holding of Outerbridges photographs, says Paul Martineau, who organized the exhibition and serves as an assistant curator in the Department of Photographs. He made significant contributions to the history of the medium in still life, the nude, color, and staged photography. Outerbridge created works of great visual power that have inspired generations of artists.
One of the great photographers of the twentieth century, Paul Outerbridge, was born and educated in New York City, where he attended the Clarence White School of Photography before launching a career as a freelance photographer. He applied a Modernist aesthetic to his advertising work, which appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Harpers Magazine. Outerbridge moved to Paris in 1925 to work for Vogue with Edward Steichen and George Hoyningen-Heune and became acquainted with Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi as a result.
By the early 1930s, Outerbridge returned to New York and perfected the technicallycomplex carbro color printing process. His saturated color prints were highly sought after and the images featured in House Beautiful, McCalls and Good Housekeeping Magazine, among others. Working for clients such as the A&P supermarket chain during the 1930s, Outerbridge created and helped popularize staged advertising photographs with a strong narrative line.
Dedicating himself to the artistic nude during the 1930s and early 1940s, the carbro process allowed Outerbridge to reproduce the subtle skin tone variations in these figure studiessomething that had not been done previously. His most original and exciting work (largely unknown during his lifetime) explored the female nude as the object of sexual fantasy and fetishistic obsession. Outerbridge published his book, Photographing In Color, in 1940, firmly establishing his reputation as one of the pioneers of color photography.
Outerbridge spent his later years in Laguna Beach, California, where he operated a small portrait studio. He often traveled to make picture essays for various magazines and, from 1954 until his death four years later, wrote a monthly column for U.S. Camera magazine.
Drawing from the Museums collection and supplemented by loans from private and public collections, this five gallery exhibition will feature Outerbridges early photographs in black-and-white (19211935) and his carbro prints (19351940) as well as a small selection of his late work (19431951). A selection of photographs by Richard C. Miller (American, born 1912) will also be on view. Miller's vibrant color pictures provide a glimpse into his career as a freelance photographer in Los Angeles during the 1940s and illustrate the basic steps of the carbro process.
Martineau adds, The last major exhibition of Outerbridges photographs was held over twenty years ago, so we thought it was time to present a fresh perspective on this gifted, but sometimes overlooked, master of the medium. His efforts helped raise advertising to the status of art; he was also an early pioneer and teacher of color photography.
Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance is shown alongside Jo Ann Callis: Woman Twirling, an exhibition which presents the work of contemporary artist Jo Ann Callis, who has pushed her investigations of domestic drama and decor into new and innovative arenas.