Reviewed by Lucas Blalock
This thin volume of Brancusi’s photographs, of his own sculptures, his studio, and occasionally of himself, are some of my favorites. They hover between pictures-of and pictures-in-themselves in a way hard to conceive of when the subjects are famous works of art. They have a strong character, often revealing the physical flaws of the materials seen, as well as those in the photographic negative itself. But they are straightforward, with their subjects set mostly in the center of the frame and lit directly, however, this studio condition doesn’t render them innocuous. On the contrary, wooden works, lit from in front and often a little too low, cast strong strange shadows, and the metal sculptures are often placed in such a way that the glow of the light’s reflection partially obscures the object. They are every bit as uncompromising and oblique as those made by his contemporary and friend Man Ray.
I became aware that he was a photographer several years ago as I was first moving my own photographic practice into the studio. I have bought all three books I can find on the subject but this one is the best thus far. The Sculptor As Photographer is overwhelming for exactly what it advertises – that one of the 20th century’s greatest sculptors was also one of the best photographer’s of his generation. The Hilton Kramer essay is largely forgettable but the plates, prepared by Richard Benson of MoMA’s “The Printed Picture” fame, are beautiful.
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Nicholas Callaway, Brancusi: The Sculptor As Photographer, (David Grob, 1979)
Images: Cover of and image from Brancusi: The Sculptor as Photgrapher