Organised by: FPAA – Bombas Gens / PHotoESPAÑA / Círculo de Bellas Artes / Casa de América
Venue: Círculo de Bellas Artes and Casa de América (Madrid)
Curators: Sandra Guimarães and Vicent Todoli (guest curators of PHotoESPAÑA 2022)
Sandra Guimarães (artistic director of Bombas Gens Centre d’Art) and Vicent Todolí (advisor of Per Amor a l’Art Collection) are the guest curators of the 25th edition of PHotoESPAÑA, the International Festival of Photography and Visual Arts.
Within the framework of the Festival, the Fundació Per Amor a l’Art-Bombas Gens will present “Sculpting Reality”, a programme that will explore documentary-style photography as both document and art, based on research into the holdings of the Per Amor a l’Art Collection (Fundació Per Amor a l’Art, Valencia). To this end, it will organise an ambitious group exhibition at two venues, the Círculo de Bellas Artes and Casa de América, and a series of public talks with prominent international artists.. With more than 500 works by 29 artists, “Sculpting Reality” is an extended version of the homonymous exhibition that could be visited in 2021 at Bombas Gens Centre d’Art.
The ‘documentary style’, a term coined by American photographer Walker Evans, had an enormous influence on photography from the beginning of the twentieth century. Initially an offshoot of other genres like reportage or photojournalism, the documentary style evolved and was eventually integrated in the discipline of art photography. It was distinguished by the intention of depicting reality in a pure, transparent way, while also reflecting on questions such as experimentation with photographic language, serialism, the document as ‘trace’, staging and its veracity, the idea of the archive, typologies or the concept of subjectivity.
In 1971, Evans stated that ‘an example of a literal document would be a police photograph of a murder scene. You see, a document has use, whereas art is really useless. Therefore art is never a document, though it certainly can adopt that style.’ In short, a photographer who adopts the documentary style aspires to reflect reality just as a sculptor does: by eliminating all superfluous piece from the final work. The title of this programme, ‘Sculpting Reality’, alludes to Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema (1985), a book by Andrei Tarkovsky that described the filmmaker as someone who ‘sculpts in time’.
The show reviews the history of this genre through different times, circumstances and geographical locations. It begins in the 1930s, presenting the work of pioneering American photographers like Walker Evans himself, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt and Louis Faurer, and ends in the present day, with a wide array of contemporary artists who have adopted this documentary style in their practices using a conceptual approach (Ian Wallace, Bleda y Rosa, Paul Graham) as well as others who were instrumental in consolidating this style during the twentieth century (Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Tod Papageorge, Anthony Hernandez, etc.).
Walker Evans / Manuel Álvarez Bravo / Garry Winogrand / Lee Friedlander / Helen Levitt / Louis Faurer / Henri Cartier Bresson / Robert Frank / Joel Meyerowitz / Tod Papageorge / Anthony Hernandez / Mike Mandel / Harry Callahan / Susan Meiselas / David Goldblatt / Ricardo Rangel / Jürgen Schadeberg / Edward Ruscha / Bernd & Hilla Becher / Lewis Baltz / Humberto Rivas / Luigi Ghirri / Ian Wallace / Xavier Ribas / Bleda y Rosa / Yto Barrada / Paul Graham
Susan Meiselas, Carnival Strippers, 1972-75. Per Amor a l’Art Collection © Susan Meiselas / VEGAP, València, 2021
Jürgen Schadeberg. The San trance dance, 1959. Per Amor a l’Art Collection © Jürgen Schadeberg
Installation view “Sculpting Reality”. Courtesy Círculo de Bellas Artes (Madrid)