In Pursuit Of Form
A rare show of Brett Weston's sculptures and photographs opens at La Mirada.
Thursday, July 25, 2002
Photo Courtesy of Erica Weston.
Photo: Dark Shadows: Brett Weston''s 1934 gelatin silver print "Bird Dune, Oceano" (left) provided the inspiration for his 1936 untitled wood sculpture (right).
One measure of a great artist is the ability to express a singular aesthetic vision through a variety of creative forms. One measure of a great art exhibition is the ability to generate fresh insight and a renewed appreciation for an artist''s life and work.
In what promises to be one of the most important and exciting art shows on the Monterey Peninsula this year, the Monterey Museum of Art is presenting rarely seen wood sculptures along with rare vintage photographs by noted photographer Brett Weston. In Pursuit of Form: Sculpture and Photographs by Brett Weston, reveals Weston to be a remarkably adept and sensitive sculptor with a deep appreciation for the aesthetic potentialities of wood as an expressive form.
Long regarded as one of the indisputable masters of contemporary art photography, and one of the great abstract artists of the 20th century, Weston is best known for his intense, boldly executed abstract photographs of natural landscapes, architectural details, and the human form. Weston''s sculptures demonstrate not only a similar affinity for the abstract, but show that his talent and the integrity of his artistic vision transcended his work with camera and lens.
"Brett loved sculpture as much as photography, and this work is a great example of a photographer who was an artist," comments MMA Executive Director Richard Gadd, who helped organize and curate the exhibition opening July 26 at La Mirada. "Brett photographed for shapes and forms, and his sculptures show that same appreciation. This exhibition shows the symbiotic relationship between Brett''s photography and sculpture and his ability to take a flat two-dimensional photograph and create from it a three-dimensional sculpture. More than half the sculptures are directly related to a photograph, while the other half are of shapes and forms similar to photographs or compositions. Sometimes Brett would re-photograph one of his sculptural works and the process would come full circle."
Of the 40 known sculptural works produced by Weston in his lifetime, 18 will be on display at La Mirada along with 34 vintage prints from the private collection of Kathy and Ron Perisho, who were instrumental in providing the impetus for assembling this show.
Although a select number of the sculptures have been exhibited in the past, In Pursuit of Form represents the first major museum retrospective of Weston''s sculpture. By emphasizing some of the direct relationships between Weston''s sculpture and photography, the exhibition offers great insight into Westons'' creativity and intuitive appreciation for abstract forms.
"This is the largest showing ever of Brett''s sculpture and for that reason alone this exhibition is very important," says Randy Efros, a close friend, fellow photographer and former assistant for Weston up until the time of Weston''s death in 1993. "It''s very exciting when you see the sculptures and how they relate to the photographs. We made a big effort to put the sculpture and photographs together in a way that shows Brett as a major artist and not just a photographer."
In recent years, Efros, who selected the sculptures and helped assemble this show, has served as curator for Weston''s daughter Erica''s private collection of 650 Weston photographs and 30 sculptures, many of which have been on long-term loan to the Monterey art museum since 1998. According to Gadd and Efros, Weston''s sculptures, the majority of which are held privately by Weston''s family members and friends, were never intended specifically for exhibition. During his lifetime, Weston kept most of the sculptures on display in his home. A few pieces were exhibited over the years at select museums and galleries in LA and San Francisco, and at the Carmel Art Association, which ironically did not accept photographers as members but did accept Brett as a sculptor.
Weston''s interest in woodworking first became apparent when as a child he would craft small boats that he liked to "sail" in his father Edward''s darkroom sink. It wasn''t until 1929 at the age of seventeen, when he had already established himself as a talented and technically accomplished photographer, that the younger Weston took up sculpting a little more seriously as both a creative outlet and form of therapy while recovering from a broken leg. His very first sculpture-a magnolia bud, based on one of his photographs-is one of the highlights of this new show.
Until the 1960s, Weston continued to sculpt primarily for the pleasure of working with his hands and as respite from the tedium and rigors of darkroom work. Despite his obvious talent as a sculptor, Weston never viewed the work as a replacement for his photography.
"The sculptures were never intended to substitute for photographs or created with the idea of exhibiting them," recalls Brett''s nephew Kim Weston, an accomplished local art photographer who worked for many years as Brett''s darkroom assistant. "They were very much a form of creative relaxation for Brett. He obviously loved sculpting and it was something he was proud of."
Weston demonstrates great sensitivity to the organic qualities of wood, and is particularly adept at working with the grain to accentuate the flow and line of the wood pieces. All the pieces share a remarkable gracefulness and elegance in their expression of morphological forms.
"In certain cases the relationship between the sculptures and photographs are purely obvious, but in other cases Brett would start with a dark shadow and move beyond a direct representation of a photograph," explains Gadd.
The juxtaposition of the sculpture and photographs provides a unique opportunity to witness an artist who, despite working in different mediums and with different tools, maintains a consistency of vision and expression. When seen within the context of the photographs, particularly the sculpted wall plaques based on sand dune photographs, the viewer comes to see the world much more directly through Weston''s eyes and better senses the way Weston engaged the physical world and transformed it into two-dimensional images of great power and beauty.
In Pursuit of Form: Sculpture and Photographs by Brett Weston opens with a reception Friday from 5:30-7:30pm in the McCone Gallery at La Mirada.