Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Philadelphia, 1963. Gelatin silver print (printed 1986). Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.5. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Chicago, negative, 1958; print, 1985, Gelatin silver print, Image: 18.3 x 18.3 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.16, © Ray K. Metzker.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Frankfurt (Man in Canoe), 1964. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1960. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Arthur Siegel, American, 1913-1978, State Street, 1949, Dye transfer print, Image: 21.9 x 26.4 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.2201, © Estate of Arthur Siegel, EX.2012.5.106.

The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design


Harry Callahan, American, 1912-1999, Eleanor, Chicago, 1952, Gelatin silver print, Image: 10.2 x 12.7 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, © Estate of Harry Callahan, 88.XM.65.6.

György Kepes, American, born Hungary, 1906-2001, Shadow Collage, 1938, Gelatin silver print, photogram, Image: 40.3 x 50.3 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, © Estate of György Kepes.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Composite: Atlantic City, 1966. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.4979.A-K. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Kenneth Josephson, American, born 1932, Chicago, 1959, Gelatin silver print, Image: 19.1 x 19.1 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by an anonymous donor in memory of James N. Wood, © Kenneth Josephson, 2012.37,

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Chicago, negative, 1958; print, 1985, Gelatin silver print, Image: 18.3 x 18.3 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family, Foundation, 2009.6.16, © Ray K. Metzker, EX.2012.5.92.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Atlantic City, negative, 1966; print, 2003, Gelatin silver print, Image: 20.3 x 20.3 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2011.21.48, © Ray K. Metzker, EX.2012.5.79.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Feste di Foglie: Italy, 1985, Gelatin silver print, Image: 34.6 x 34 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.57, © Ray K. Metzker, EX.2012.5.58.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Moab, 1996. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1967. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Feste di Foglie, Italy, 1985. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1969. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Chicago, 1959. Gelatin silver print (printed 1989). Gift of Hallmark, Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1966. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Joseph Sterling, American, 1936-2010, Untitled, 1961, Gelatin silver print, Image: 19.1 x 19.1 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.4395, Repro Credit: Courtesy Stephen Daiter Gallery, © Deborah Sterling, EX.2012.5.114.

 

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
816-751-1278
Kansas City

The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker
January 15-June 5, 2011

J. Paul Getty Museum
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
310-440-7305
Los Angeles
The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker
and the Institute of Design

September 25, 2012-February 24, 2013

Ray K. Metzker (American, born 1931) is one of the most dedicated and influential American photographers of the last half century. His photographs strike a instinctive balance between formal brilliance, optical innovation, and a deep human regard for the objective world. The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design offers a comprehensive overview of Metzker’s five-decade career, while also providing examples of work by instructors and fellow students at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where Metzker studied from 1956 to 1959.

Organized in collaboration with Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the exhibition is curated by Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs, and Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition features nearly 200 photographs, including approximately 80 from the holdings of The Nelson-Atkins Museum.

The Institute of Design Revered for an energetic atmosphere of experimentation, Chicago’s Institute of Design (ID) opened in the fall of 1937 under the name New Bauhaus, with avant-garde artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy at the helm. Modeled after the German Bauhaus (1919-1933), the school’s program integrated art, architecture and design, with photography quickly becoming an integral component of the curriculum. The ID was noted for fostering an environment of inquisitiveness and investigation that encouraged students to develop a distinctive style under the guidance of a faculty of well-known artists and designers.

Ray K. Metzker Dynamically composed, Metzker’s luminous black-and-white photographs feature subjects ranging from urban cityscapes to nature, all demonstrating the inventive potential of the photographic process. While a student at the ID, Metzker was mentored by renowned photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. His curiosity led to experiments with high contrast, selective focus, and multiple images. Metzker’s thesis project for the ID, a study of Chicago’s business district, or Loop, displayed many of these techniques. One image, a multiple exposure of commuters ascending a sun-bathed staircase, prefigures the novel Composites that he began to make in 1964. Whether documenting everyday life in an urban environment or exploring the natural landscapes, Metzker’s photographs often incorporate elements of abstraction. A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Metzker taught at the Philadelphia College of Art for many years. His frequent focus on Philadelphia and other cityscapes has yielded iconic images of automobiles, commuters, streets, sidewalks, and architectural facades. "Metzker's love of the photographic process has produced a rich body of work that suggests a vulnerability underlying the human condition," explains Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. "With highlights and shadows pushed to extremes and multiple frames combined in innovative ways, his photographs create a graceful choreography of human interaction against urban settings."

Metzker titles and groups his images based on their location or technique. The exhibition features Metzker’s most significant bodies of work, including Chicago (1956-59), Europe (1960-61), Early Philadelphia (1961-64), Double Frames and Couplets (1964-69), Composites (1964-84), Sand Creatures (1968-77), Pictus Interruptus (1971-80), City Whispers (1980-83), Landscapes (1985-96), and Late Philadelphia (1996-2009).

Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind In 1946, the year of Moholy-Nagy’s death, the ID introduced a new four-year photography program and welcomed instructor Harry Callahan. Callahan was instrumental in hiring Aaron Siskind in 1951, and together they became a formidable teaching duo. Their work will be featured in two galleries within the exhibition, with a focus on photographs they created while at the ID.

Harry Callahan’s work benefitted greatly from the attitude of experimentation that was a hallmark of the ID, and his time at the school marked a particularly productive period in his own career. Architectural details, views of nature and intimate photographs of his wife, Eleanor and daughter, Barbara became subjects that defined his career. A central tenet of his teaching was to return to previously explored subjects, an approach that he himself practiced, as did Metzker.

Influenced by the Abstract Expressionist painters he befriended in the 1940s, Aaron Siskind’s work features abstracted textures and patterns excerpted from the real world. Often calligraphic in form, the urban facades, graffiti, stains, and debris he photographed capitalize on the flatness of the picture plane. In Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation, his studies of male divers against a blank sky experiments with the figure-ground relationship. "Callahan and Siskind had vastly different visual styles and interests in subject matter" said Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. "However, both emphasized the expressive possibilities of the medium rather than the mechanics of producing a photograph. It was this shared interest in constantly challenging their students that came to define their influential presence at the ID."

Also featured in the exhibition is work by a number of founding ID photography instructors and those who taught in the years Metzker attended the school, including György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Henry Holmes Smith, Arthur Siegel, Edmund Teske, Art Sinsabaugh, and Frederick Sommer. Another gallery is dedicated to the work of ID students Kenneth Josephson, Joseph Sterling, Joseph Jachna, and Charles Swedlund, all of whom, together with Metzker, were featured in a 1961 issue of Aperture magazine that extolled the virtues of the ID’s photography program.

The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design is organized in collaboration with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. The J. Paul Getty Museum has added photographs from its own collection and other key loans to those on loan from The Nelson-Atkins Museum. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication about Metzker’s life and work by Keith F. Davis.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Philadelphia, 1983. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1963. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Aaron Siskind, American, 1903-1991, Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 94, 1961, Gelatin silver print, Image: 27.9 x 26.1 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, © Aaron Siskind Foundation, 84.XM.1012.107.

Aaron Siskind, American, 1903-1991, Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 94, 1961, Gelatin silver print, Image: 27.9 x 26.1 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, © Aaron Siskind Foundation.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, New Mexico, negative 1972; print 1987, Gelatin silver print, Image: 17.8 x 27.9 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2011.21.37, © Ray K. Metzker.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Double Frames: Philadelphia, 1965. Gelatin silver print (printed
1984). Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.37. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller
Gallery.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Composites: Nude, negative 1966; print 1984, Gelatin silver print, Image: 56.5 x 25.4 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, © Ray K. Metzker, 2012.26.1.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Double Frame: Philadelphia, negative 1965; print 1972, Gelatin silver print, Image: 21.6 x 9.8 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2011.21.58.

 

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, New Mexico, negative 1972; print 1987, Gelatin silver print, Image: 17.8 x 27.9 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family, Foundation, 2011.21.37, © Ray K. Metzker, EX.2012.5.70.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, Valencia, 1961, Gelatin silver print, Image: 14.3 x 22.9 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.71.20, © Ray K. Metzker, EX.2012.5.102.

Ray K. Metzker, American, born 1931, City Whispers, Philadelphia, 1983, Gelatin silver print, Image: 24.5 x 24 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, © Ray K. Metzker, 2012.27.\

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Couplets: Atlantic City, 1968. Gelatin silver print. Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.44. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

Ray K. Metzker, American (b. 1931). Philadelphia, 1964. Gelatin silver print (printed 1989). Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.1965. © Ray K. Metzker, Courtesy of the Laurence Miller Gallery.

 

Charles Swedlund, American, born 1935, Buffalo, NY, about 1970, Gelatin silver print, Image: 18.7 x 15.9 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by an anonymous donor in memory of James N. Wood, © Charles Swedlund, 2012.39.