Filed under: Photography, Teenie Harris Archive, What's New
Seventy-five years ago today, in 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper printed pictures of a young Lena Horne (a Pittsburgher at the time) at the Allegheny County Airport as she departed for Hollywood. She spent the hours before at a farewell party in her honor at the Loendi Club in the Hill District. At the airport, her husband Louis Jones, her father Teddy Horne, and friends Woogie and Ada Harris were there to wish her a bon voyage—she had even borrowed a Persian lamb coat from Ada Harris for the trip. Teenie Harris was there the entire time and photographed the young star in broad smiles looking excited and beautiful. Shortly afterwards, the readers of the Courier, the most widely circulated black newspaper in the country, saw these pictures, though without any credit to the photographer. However, we believe that they are possibly the first ones that Harris had published in the Courier. At the same time, these pictures, along with several others, were published in a two-page spread in the Washington, D.C.-based Flash Newspicture magazine.
Spread from Flash Newspicture magazine, February 14, 1938, pages 22–23
Harris had begun contributing images to Flash in the autumn of 1937, about the time he purchased his trademark 4×5 Speed Graphic camera.
Photographer unknown, Charles “Teenie” Harris in front of Flash circulation office, 2132 Centre Avenue, Hill District, c. 1937
By 1938, he was listed on the masthead of Flash as one of the publication’s photographers, and he had opened a photography studio with Harry Beale at 2128 Centre Avenue in the Hill District. Several stories circulate about exactly how, when, and why Harris began to work with the Courier, but he was beginning to make a name for himself as a photographer. Other Pittsburgh Courier staff, including reporter-photographer Joe Sewell, photographer Alex Rivera, and gossip columnist Julia Bumry Jones also contributed to Flash. Whatever the specific details were (and we would love to know them) about Harris’s early relationship with the Courier, within a few months he was regularly freelancing for the publication. In the May 7, 1938, issue he was finally credited for his picture of Marva Louis, wife of boxer Joe Louis, at a fashion show.
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Marva Louis standing behind artificial palm tree, for Centre Avenue YMCA Junior Hostesses Fashion Revue, April 1938
Harris became a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier in 1941, and continued into the mid- to late 1970s, amassing possibly the largest body of work of a black community by a single photographer in the mid-twentieth century.
Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Decorative Arts & Design, What's New
Installation view, Carlo Bugatti, Cobra chair, 1902, wood, parchment with painted decoration, and copper, Berdan Memorial Trust Fund, Helen Johnston Acquisition Fund, and Decorative Arts Purchase Fund
Choosing my favorite object from Inventing the Modern World is nearly impossible—my “favorite” tends to shift by the hour or according to my mood (this says more about my love of objects than it does about my indecisiveness). There’s one extraordinary object however that stands out no matter the time of day or my disposition—the Cobra chair designed by Carlo Bugatti.
Bugatti was one of the most eccentric European designers working at the turn of the century and his furniture is truly fantastical, bordering on bizarre. Inspired by nature, architecture, and decorative elements of the Middle East, North Africa, and Japan, he worked in unusual combinations of materials.
The Cobra chair was part of a suite made by Bugatti for the 1902 Turin Prima Esposizione d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, the first world’s fair devoted exclusively to decorative arts and design. The organizing committee declared that only original and innovative designs free of historical precedent would be accepted. It is obvious that Bugatti rose to this particular challenge.
The dynamic form of the Cobra chair blurs the boundaries between sculpture and functional design with a revolutionary assembling technique decades ahead of its time. Composite wooden elements were joined and shaped to create a curving silhouette that anticipates the cantilevered designs of the 1920s and 1930s by Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, and Kem Weber. Bugatti disguised and unified the composite parts with stretched and joined parchment, making the chair look like it’s a solid piece. The vellum is painted with stylized flowers, dragonflies, and geometric shapes while the applied copper disc on the back further accentuates the cobra imagery. Although the chair exhibits the exotic influences, organic shapes, and naturalistic references that typify Art Nouveau, the chair stands out as a thoroughly modern product of Bugatti’s vivid imagination.
The otherworldly aspects of Bugatti’s designs are truly elucidated in the image of the Snail Room at the 1902 fair. One of three complete rooms Bugatti designed for the exhibition, the Salle de Jeu et Conversation (room for games and conversation) contained a spiraling banquette and table surrounded by Cobra chairs and circular panels mimicking the chair backs. The room is at once futuristic, organic, and exotic.
Though Bugatti’s Cobra is beloved by art historians today, it was a bit too radical to be widely accepted in 1902. Nevertheless, Bugatti was awarded a diploma of honor by the Turin jury. They clearly found the Cobra chair to be as unforgettable as I do. As one contemporary critic of the exhibition wrote, “the artist who knows how to give a truly individual imprint to his furniture is C. Bugatti.…Bugatti, living outside every movement and owing everything to himself and demanding everything from himself, is the exhibitor who most clearly remains stamped in one’s memory.”
Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Fine Arts, Uncategorized, What's New
There is a lot of work that goes into preparing an exhibition, even the relatively small shows that go on view in Gallery One. Much of the work is not exactly glamorous—hours spent in libraries paging through deteriorating volumes covered in 100-year-old dust, or hours spent removing 100-year-old dust from a work of art—but it can still be very exciting (seriously)! When Lulu Lippincott, curator of fine arts, first had the idea to exhibit our early Japanese print collection, she wanted to present the works in a different context than they have been shown at CMOA in the past. Remembering that both our collection and our neighbor’s (Carnegie Museum of Natural History) contained a number of Japanese ivory sculptures in storage, we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to bring the two mediums, woodblock prints and ivories, together in one exhibition exploring the early history of collecting Japanese art at this museum. The exhibition, “Japan is the Key…”: Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900–1920, will be on view March 30–July 21, 2013, in Gallery One.
A key figure in our story is ketchup magnate Henry J. Heinz, an avid collector who donated over a thousand ivory sculptures to the museum. While the majority of these are small-scale works ranging from two to 14 inches tall, there is one that soars above the rest—a life-size ivory eagle measuring nearly four feet tall. Heinz purchased the work for the museum in 1913 during his travels throughout Asia and it had been on continuous view until the early 1990s. For those of us who can’t remember or who have never seen the giant eagle, it is easy to be stunned by the sheer size of it; knowing that it is constructed out of such a precious material only adds to its magnificence.
Having spent nearly 20 years in storage, the giant eagle has accumulated layers of dust and other particulates on its surface. Thankfully, it was kept in the original case built for its display in 1913 which has managed to offer some additional protection over the years—although the two jars of pesticides which were sealed inside offered a rather… malodorous surprise when it was opened for cleaning. Over the next several weeks, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s objects conservator Gretchen Anderson and her team of interns will be analyzing and cleaning the eagle before it goes into our exhibition. As a rare treat, the team will work in full view of the public and, yes, they do take questions! You’ll be amazed by the resourcefulness of objects conservators and stunned to find out their use of common household materials, such as makeup sponges and chunks of a Magic Eraser to remove the grime.
Next time you visit the museum, skip the PaleoLab (just this once) and head up to the third floor’s Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians (at the back of Polar World) where you can see this team of conservators in action. They’ll be there 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays for the duration of the conservation. If you don’t get a chance to see it being cleaned, it will be on view March 30–July 21, 2013, in Gallery One as part of the exhibition!
Filed under: Photography, Teenie Harris Archive, What's New
August 28, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which he prophetically described as the event that “will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
Many Pittsburghers traveled to the demonstration in Washington D.C. that day, including Sala Udin, who organized a bus full of students on behalf of the NAACP Youth Council of Staten Island, New York (where he was in high school at the time) to attend the historic event. He described that day during an interview conducted by the staff of the Teenie Harris Archive in 2011:
“We arrived early in the morning, and as the August sun in Washington D.C. got hotter and hotter and hotter, and the day went on, and speaker after speaker… and everybody was really waitin’ for the main keynote speaker of the day, was a man named Dr. King. And when he came out, a quarter of a million people just fell completely silent, and he spoke about what was happening to civil rights workers and people who lived in the south where he had come to Washington D.C. from. And he came with a message to tell Washington that they had given black folks a bad check, and he came to make that check good. I’d never heard anybody speak like that, except maybe Malcolm, in Harlem. And I said to myself, standing right there on the mall in that hot sun, sweatin’ – I said I want to join whatever it is he’s doing – I want to be one of them. And eighteen months later, I was on a bus headed for Mississippi, having been recruited by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and SNCC to come to Mississippi to work on voter registration, integrating schools and lunch counters, and so I had the opportunity to become a Freedom Rider. So that’s how I got involved.”
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Loran Mann, Charles Harris, Matthew Moore, and Tom McGarrity at press conference, University of Pittsburgh, November 1966
Three years after this influential event, in November of 1966, Dr. King spoke in Pittsburgh where according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he “drew the largest turnout of students ever to hear a visiting speaker” at the University of Pittsburgh’s student union. Teenie Harris captured several images of the press conference that followed Dr. King’s speech for the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper.
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seated behind table with microphone, with Charles Harris and Matthew Moore behind him, at press conference, University of Pittsburgh, November 1966
The Heinz Architectural Center is turning 20, and we’re kicking off a year of special events with a birthday party—you can be a part of the fun! We’re pairing local architects with local bakeries to create architecture-inspired cakes to mark our big day. Come vote on (and taste!) some of their creations. The cakes—and their bakers and designers—will be our special guests at a party in the Heinz Architectural Center.
This is a FREE event! Learn more at 2020.cmoa.org.
Cake design teams include:
Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Decorative Arts & Design, What's New
Working at museums has taught me that nothing can compare to the real thing; no image, however high resolution, can capture the experience of standing in front of an object and exploring it in space, and in relation to your own body. Yet somehow, I never cease to be surprised!
I thought that I knew the objects in the exhibition Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. As the head of publications at the museum, I dove into the show about three years ago, as we began to develop the exhibition catalogue. The curators made decisions about objects and asked outside scholars to write about them, and our intrepid rights and reproductions coordinator, Laurel, began to track down images for the book. For close to a year, as we reviewed photography together and edited texts, I felt like I lived with all of the objects in the book—and fell in love with a few of them along the way. But some I passed by without giving them a second thought. The Vase Bertin by Sèvres was one of those; I knew it was “important,” and it seemed pretty enough, but it didn’t move me.
Then I saw it in the gallery.
I guess I hadn’t really paid much attention to the dimensions when I was editing the checklist, because the sheer scale of it left me speechless. I had lived with it for so long as an image bounded by the white space of a printed page. Then, as I began to walk around it, the amazingly beautiful decoration of the underwater scene completely drew me in—fronds of seaweed with translucent stems, the fine whorls of mussel shells, the jaunty upturned chin and crossed spindly legs of a frog kicking up to the surface. I visit it whenever I pass through the galleries, and discover something new each time.
Jules-Constant Peyre, Léopold Jules Gély, and Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Vase Bertin, c. 1855, glazed porcelain, The Cleveland Museum of Art
I’m incredibly proud of our catalogue (buy it!), and it will keep the exhibition alive long after the objects have returned to their own museums and collections; but for now, as long as I have the chance, I’ll make a point of going up to visit the real things.
Filed under: Architecture, Photography, Uncategorized, What's New
Installation view of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Time Exposed, 1991, Courtesy of the artist. The photographs on the left were placed inside the fountain which was allowed to freeze during the winter. From the 1991 Carnegie International.
If you have the good fortune to visit the southern Japanese island of Naoshima—one of the six sites in our current exhibition at the Heinz Architectural Center, White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes—be sure to look for several works by the Japanese-born, New York-based artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto. You may already know his work from the cover of the last U2 album, No Line on the Horizon, with its bifurcated photograph of ocean and sky.
In a small village on Naoshima, Sugimoto has restored an Edo-period shrine and inserted a staircase of “optical glass” that descends to an underground stone chamber. It has that special Japanese quality of combining, simultaneously, the traditional and the modern. In common with his photographs, there is a bifurcation between an upper and a lower half. Sugimoto has more work at Park, one of several buildings on Naoshima by the great Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Like other Ando interventions, Park functions as a hotel or lodge in which you are surrounded by works of art.
Artwork by Hiroshi Sugimoto situated in the natural landscape of Naoshima, Japan. Photo © Hiroshi Sugimoto, Courtesy The Pace Gallery
Sugimoto has also installed more than a dozen images of sea and sky outdoors on the island, gelatin silver prints set in sealed acrylic boxes. Titled Time Exposed (1980–97), several of these are placed on exterior concrete walls at Benesse House, an early building by Ando, where they line up to either side of a slot of space that offers a prospect of real sea and sky. Others are found, as if by chance, out in the landscape, on rocks overlooking the sea. I love the sense of discovery when one of these artworks is encountered all by itself in the natural world.
Sugimoto is drawn to the effect of sunlight, moisture, and temperature on these photographic works. He seems to be interested in not divorcing or protecting them entirely from nature. It was then a very nice surprise to read that Sugimoto first experimented with situating photographs outdoors here in Pittsburgh when, for the Carnegie International in 1991, he sited twenty-five works in the museum’s Sculpture Court. Some were even placed inside the fountain, behind the flow of water which was allowed to freeze that winter.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Irish Sea, Isle of Man I (#337), 1990, Purchase: gift of Milton Fine
Photographs such as these are typically printed in editions. We checked the list of works on view on Naoshima today against the works acquired by the Carnegie Museum in the early 1990s. There were two matches; that’s to say, two of the photographs in our collection are also in the collection on Naoshima. One of these is Irish Sea, Isle of Man I (#337), a prospect not far from the home of U2’s Bono in Dublin. We decided to include it in the exhibition. You may perhaps imagine yourself halfway around the world, in Ireland or on a distant Japanese island.
Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Decorative Arts & Design, Fine Arts, Uncategorized, What's New
Art handler Matt Cummings takes on the delicate task of installing figures in the middle of the scene for the Neapolitan presepio.
Every year on the Monday—Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, Carnegie Museum of Art staff installs the museum’s remarkable Neapolitan presepio. Beloved by Pittsburghers as an annual holiday tradition the presepio is an incredible multi-media work of art, created by 18th-century artisans in Naples.
We install the stage set within the steps of St. Gilles in the Hall of Architecture. The set is made up of dozens of platforms topped with miniature buildings, bridges, roads, rocks, and a stream. The various pieces are unified by the application of conservation-safe moss cloth.
A member of the so-called “Turkish band,” a common sight in the bustling Mediterranean port of 18th-century Naples.
In come the figures on rolling metal carts. More than 100 human and angelic characters, plus another dozen animals, and countless finimenti or finishing touches (tiny props like walking sticks, assorted foods for the marketplace, and tiny ceramic and silver jars and platters. If all goes well, we finish the day by suspending the host of angels overhead.
Museum staff place figures in the foreground, while the yellow ladder at back will help us install the angels overhead.
During the rest of the year the presepio figures rest in carefully padded and outfitted drawers like this one.
We polish off the installation with a green velvet skirt, gold stanchions, and didactic panels, as well as a special display case that provides an opportunity to see one figure up close.
The Moorish King Balthazar
Work in progress: this is the cheese seller’s stand, which is ultimately set up with dozens of tempting hard and soft cheeses for his customers. As we place figures it looks like he is keeping an eye on our vegetables and fruit.
The fisherman is the oldest figure in the presepio, dating to 1700. A natural fit for a streamside spot, he also serves as an allegory for Christ, who was called the “fisher of men.”
This begging dog is quite a character with his upward gaze and wagging tail.
Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Education, Photography, What's New
Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, and the Mayor’s Youth Council recently teamed up to present Wallflowers and Wildflowers, an alternative homecoming dance for local high school students. The sold-out event was held in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Botany Hall and Halls of North American and African Wildlife, and it was attended by a creative and enthusiastic group of local high school students.
CLP’s librarian and event founder, Joseph Wilk, describes it best on the event’s Facebook page, where students are already rallying for the alternative homecoming to become an annual event: “Maybe your school doesn’t have a football team or maybe you’re not allowed to bring a date or maybe you don’t have a school you call home but have a home you call school…” Students, many of whom did not attend traditional homecoming dances this year, appreciated the unique opportunity to celebrate in a positive and accepting environment.
The event featured dancing and fun activities led by Carnegie Museum of Art’s teaching artists, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Teen Docents, Assemble, and The Labs at CLP. Also, Perks of Being a Wallflower author Stephen Chbosky, a teen favorite, sent autographed books and posters, which were raffled off to a few lucky attendees!
Photographs © Martha Rial. Martha is a Pittsburgh-based photographer and Pulitzer Prize–winner. See more of her amazing work at www.martharial.com.