In a major upcoming exhibition, Tate Modern will reveal how stories of photography and abstract art are intertwined. Titled Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art, it will explore photography in relation to the development of abstraction.
Starting from the early experiments of the beginning of the 20th century to recent digital innovations, the show will examine the history of abstract photography side-by-side with seminal paintings and sculptures. The first show of this scale to explore this subject, it will feature over 300 works by more than 100 artists.
Placing moments of radical innovation in photography within the wider context of abstract art, the exhibition will explore the relationship between the media through a juxtaposition of works by painters and photographers. Cubist works by George Braque will be shown next to works by Pierre Dubreuil, while the Abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock will stand beside Otto Steinert's "luminograms".
The impact of Surrealism on the depiction of the human body will be demonstrated through André Kertesz’s Distorsions, Imogen Cunningham’s Triangles and Bill Brandt’s Baie des Anges, Frances 1958, in comparison with a major painting by Joan Miró.
Acknowledging its impact, Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art will also show installation photographs of MoMA’s pioneering show The Sense of Abstraction from 1960. The display will feature works by Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind and a series by Man Ray that has not been exhibited since this seminal show.
Examining the connection between breakthroughs in photography and new techniques in painting, the exhibition will present rooms devoted to Op Art and Kinetic Art from 1960, with paintings by Bridget Riley and installations of key photographic works from the era by artists including Floris Neussis and Gottfried Jaeger. It will also include rooms dedicated to the minimal and conceptual practices of the 1970s and 80s, as well as a series of new works by contemporary artists such as Tony Cairns, Maya Rochat and Daisuke Yokota that reflect the connections between the two media today.
Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art will be on view at Tate Modern in London from May 2nd until October 14th, 2018.
The exhibition is curated by Simon Baker, Senior Curator, International Art (Photography) and Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern, with Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, Curator for Photographs, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.
Featured images: Otto Steinert - Luminogram II, 1952. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 302 x 401 mm. Jack Kirkland Collection Nottingham © Estate Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen; László Moholy-Nagy - Photogram, c.1925. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 181 x 238 mm. Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham; Jackson Pollock - Number 23, 1948. Enamel on gesso on paper, 575 x 784 mm. Tate: Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery (purchased out of funds provided by Mr and Mrs H.J. Heinz II and H.J. Heinz Co. Ltd) 1960 © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2017; Barbara Kasten - Photogenic Painting, Untitled 74:13, 1974. Photograph, salted paper print, 558 x 762 mm. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Bortolami Gallery, New York © Barbara Kasten; László Moholy-Nagy - K VII, 1922. Oil paint and graphite on canvas, 1153 x 1359 mm. Tate: Purchased 1961; James Welling - ZEPES, 1986. Photograph, C-print on paper, 254 x 203 mm. Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham © James Welling. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong and Maureen Paley, London. All images courtesy of Tate Modern.