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Kunsthaus Zürich Shows 'The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today
Lee Friedlander, Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1969. Gelatin silver print, 20,5 x 30,8 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer © 2010 Lee Friedlander.

ZURICH.- From 25 February to 15 May 2011, the Kunsthaus Zürich is hosting ‘The Original Copy’, which assembles more than 300 photographs from the dawn of modernism to the present. By over 100 leading photographers and path breaking sculptors, the works demonstrate the way photography has influenced the concept of sculpture and given it a new and creative definition. The show comes to the Kunsthaus Zürich from The Museum of Modern Art and will make no further stops.

‘The Original Copy’ is the first survey exhibition to focus on the role of photography in the evolution of sculpture and offers visitors a critical examination of the aesthetic and theoretical intersections of these two very different media.

Sculpture is among the first subjects of photography. With their use of experimental detailing, selective focus, variable optics, extreme close-up and strategic lighting, as well as techniques such as collage, montage, assemblage and darkroom manipulation, photographers have not only interpreted sculptures, they have gone further to spawn some surprising new creations. Special attention is paid to how the one medium is implicated in the creative interpretation of the other, and how photographs influence and challenge our conception of sculpture. The exhibition investigates the reasons for sculpture’s emergence as a subject for photographers, and how photography has enriched and expanded the realm of the sculptural. Conceived by Roxana Marcoci, curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and organized in Zurich by Tobia Bezzola, the exhibition is arranged in ten chapters and delves deep into 170 years of insight.


‘Eugène Atget: The Marvelous in the Everyday’ presents classical statues, reliefs, fountains and other decorative fragments in Paris, Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux, which together amount to a visual compendium of the heritage of French civilization, while the chapter entitled ‘Auguste Rodin: The Sculptor and the Photographic Enterprise’ includes some of the most memorable pictures of Rodin’s sculptures by various photographers, among them Edward Steichen.

‘Constantin Brancusi: The Studio as Groupe Mobile’ focuses on Brancusi’s uniquely non-traditional techniques in photographing his studio, with its hybrid, transitory constellations. In his so-called ‘photos radieuses’ (radiant photos), flashes of light explode the sculptural gestalt.

‘Marcel Duchamp: The Readymade as Reproduction’ provides a closer examination of ‘Box in a Valise’ (1935–41), a sort of catalogue of his oeuvre featuring 69 reproductions, including minute replicas of several readymades and an original work. Duchamp produced ‘authorized “original” copies’ of his work, blurring the boundaries between unique object, readymade and multiple.

‘Cultural and Political Icons’ showcases significant photographic essays of the twentieth century – Walker Evans’s ‘American Photographs’ (1938), Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ (1958), Lee Friedlander’s ‘The American Monument’ (1976) and David Goldblatt’s ‘The Structure of Things Then’ (1998) – many of which have never before been shown in a thematic context.

‘The Studio without Walls: Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ explores the radical changes that occurred in the definition of sculpture when a number of artists who did not consider themselves photographers in the traditional sense, such as Robert Smithson, Robert Barry, and Gordon Matta-Clark, began to document remote sites as sculpture rather than the traditional three-dimensional object.

‘The Performing Body as Sculptural Object’ explores the role of photography in the intersection of performance and sculpture. Bruce Nauman, Charles Ray and Dennis Oppenheim treated the body like a sculptural prop to be picked up, bent or deployed just like any other material, while Eleanor Antin, Valie Export and Hannah Wilke engaged with the ‘rhetoric of the pose’, using the camera as an instrument whose mere presence affects behaviour.

‘Daguerre’s Soup: What Is Sculpture?’ includes photographs of found objects or assemblages created specifically for the camera. It includes such prominent Swiss proponents as Fischli/Weiss, whose 1980s work profits from the legacy of such earlier pieces as Brassaï’s ‘Involuntary Sculptures’ (circa 1932), Alina Szapocznikow’s ‘Photosculptures’ (1970–71) and Marcel Broodthaers’s ‘Daguerre’s Soup’ (1974). This last, a tongue-in-cheek take on the various fluid and chemical processes used by Louis Daguerre to invent photography in the nineteenth century, foregrounds experimental ideas about the realm of everyday objects.

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