Time Line: Sheila Metzner
School of Visual Arts presents “Time Line: Sheila Metzner,” a retrospective exhibition of the work of acclaimed photographer Sheila Metzner, offering a comparative exploration of her artistic production over the past 40 years. The exhibition will be on view at the Visual Arts Museum, 209 East 23 Street, New York City, from September 3 – October 4, 2008.
The exhibition will include approximately 100 images, drawn from Metzner’s personal collection, and will feature highlights from her work in several genres—fashion, still life, landscape and portraiture—each rendered in her signature, evocative style. The exhibition will include several never-before-exhibited works, including selections from her latest series, 36 Views of Brooklyn Bridge
For Metzner, “this exhibition takes romance, adventure, love, concepts of scale, travel, natural form, man-made form and mystery and throws it up in the air, to fall as a life or a fiction.” The show weaves together the many recurring visual themes in Metzner’s work, as it celebrates the diversity of her subject matter throughout her career, juxtaposing images of family members with celebrities, Samburu warriors with flowers, the Manhattan skyline with the pyramids of Giza. Despite the range of subjects Metzner has addressed in her body of work, her photographs share a stylistic unity, as each is imbued with a sensual romanticism, conveyed by soft patinas and rich, deep tones.
Metzner is well known for her use of the Fresson printing process "tirage au charbon," a rare method of color printing developed in France in 1900, which renders characteristically diffused images, reminiscent of pointillism, with remarkable tonal range and color saturation. The Fresson process is carried out by hand by the descendants of the inventor—Metzner is one of only ten American photographers with whom they have chosen to collaborate. The process uses layered oil pigments in gelatin and requires between four to seven separate negatives, yielding luminous, glowing colors. Prints are developed in a solution of water and sawdust, which creates a softened, painterly effect.
The exhibition will be presented salon-style and centers around 11 themes which encompass Metzner’s multifaceted career: Early Work, silver gelatin portraits of family members and friends; Color, an exploration of color possibilities using the Fresson process; Southwest, a documentation of a life-changing journey to the Four Corners; Rick Dynamo, a series of figure studies of a single model, inspired by the heroic figures of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling; Metal Objects in Time and Space, a selection of still lifes made from metal prototypes created by French industrial designer Serge Mouille; In Search of the Sacred/Inherit the Earth, landscapes and travel photographs focusing on the exotic and the esoteric; New York City 2000, a series of black-and-white Polapan images of the city shot from rooftops; Form and Fashion/Age of Flight, haute couture photography and celebrity portraiture from her years at Vanity Fair and Vogue; Flowers, a suite of formalist studies made from flowers and botanicals; Constructs, a series of light on color studies, influenced by a trip to Marfa, Texas to see Donald Judd’s work; 36 Views of Brooklyn Bridge, a response to the famous woodblock prints 36 Views of Mount Fuji by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.
Born in Brooklyn in 1939, Sheila Metzner studied visual communications and worked as a commercial art director for several years before her photographs came to the attention of the art world following her inclusion in the 1978 landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art entitled “Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960,” selected by celebrated curator John Szarkowski. Following the exhibition at MoMA, her work was the subject of several solo gallery shows, which led to commissioned editorial work for Vogue, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone and commercial work for clients such as Valentino, Perry Ellis, Fendi, Ralph Lauren, and Elizabeth Arden, among others.
Sheila Metzner’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography and the Brooklyn Museum, among other institutions and private collections. Her work has been on view in galleries and museums worldwide, including the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris, the Kunstforum Landerbank in Austria, the Royal College of Art in London and a solo exhibition at the International Center of Photography. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Art Director’s Hall of Fame, the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography and the Ansel Adams Award for Book Photography. Metzner is the author of four monographs: Objects of Desire (Polaroid/Clarkson N. Potter); Sheila Metzner’s Color (Twin Palms); Inherit the Earth (Bullfinch Press); and Form and Fashion (Arena Press).