See the full post at DLK Collection:
JTF (just the facts): A total of 14 large scale color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung in the entry, the main gallery space, and the smaller side room. All of the works are chromogenic prints on Fujicolor Crystal Archive paper mounted on Dibond. Physical dimensions are either 30x45 or 43x65 (or reverse), both in editions of 10; there are 8 images in the larger size and 6 images in the smaller size on display. The works are dated between 1996 and 2002 and were printed in 2011. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Hannes Schmid's photographs of cowboys in the American West have such an instantly recognizable, stylistic familiarity it's as if they have been embedded in our collective consciousness. And of course, as the basis for the famous Marlboro advertising campaigns, his images have become iconic symbols for the rugged masculinity and confident freedom of life on the range. Regardless of the specific works on view, Schmid's visual approach brings together the mythical and the aspirational, capturing a quality that many might now call uniquely American. Ropes and spurs, leather chaps, majestic vistas, herds of wild horses, saturated orange sunsets, silhouettes of rough hardworking men, it's all part of a cinematic sense of bold, romantic adventure.
Over the years, many of Schmid's most famous cowboy images have been appropriated by Richard Prince, who layered on a postmodern sense of suspicion and skepticism, where we were led to question the motivations behind the pictures and see them in a more ironic, almost mocking light. Given Prince's tremendous art world success, this point of view has become the dominant one, and it is nearly impossible to go back and see Schmid's photographs with a sense of rediscovered, original purity.
That Schmid took the subject of the American cowboy and transformed it into something profoundly memorable is, I think, without question. What is intriguing about his re-emergence now is that in the intervening years since they were made, layer upon layer of additional meanings and connections have been added to these pictures. This gives them a richness of ideas that goes beyond their visual content; they can be taken at face value and enjoyed for their dynamism (with a touch of nostalgic sentimentality) or they can be considered in the context of having been hijacked and recontextualized, forever symbols of someone else's intellectual irony. This show is an attempt to make the argument that both perspectives are valid, and that the photographs can stand on their own, regardless of, or perhaps in celebration of, the changing moods of the times.
Collector's POV: The works in the show are priced based on size; the 30x45 prints are $18000 each and the 43x65 prints are $24000 each. Schmid's photographs have very little secondary market history, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD
Hannes Schmid: Cowboy
Through October 29th
Edwynn Houk Gallery
745 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10151
Edwynn Houk Gallery is pleased to announce the first New York solo exhibition for the Swiss artist Hannes Schmid. This follows his 2010 solo presentation Never Look Back at the prestigious Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, and at the gallery’s Zurich space earlier this year.
Hannes Schmid’s Cowboys have stealthily entered our consciousness via a steady flow of gorgeous advertisement imagery and within the art market, via the appropriated cowboys of Richard Prince. In the photographs on display in this exhibition, selected by the artist from his personal archive, Schmid grasped the scenery of the American West in a refined pictorial way and reimagined the cowboy, who had already been ennobled to be the mythical icon in America, by giving him a contemporary and tangible appearance. Drawing from an extensive knowledge as artist and photographer, Schmid dramatically reduced the vocabulary of the image to essentials and emphasized the brilliance of the prints. In addition, he has been expanding his Cowboys from just photography, reclaiming and reworking them into oil paintings and other media.
Schmid anchors his seductive images in a collective memory that derives from the fictional accounts of the West in Hollywood genre films. His frequent use of the panoramic format mimics the cinema that, in return, heightens the sense of the open and dramatic landscape as well as the staged ‘action’ depicted within.
Being part of a handful of photographers who has worked on an advertisement campaign that was first launched in 1954, Schmid is often credited with updating the Cowboy and its iconic status, injecting new life and a fresh perspective. He was originally approached because of his renowned work within the fashion industry and his proven eye for intense color and sharp, unusual angles. His style of reduction - hiding of faces, dramatic contrasts within a limited color palette, and the use of the silhouette - added new drama to one of the most successful advertising campaigns and ensured the continued longevity and global recognizability of the Cowboy as the Marlboro Man.
However, these images go beyond mere marketing pragmatism and instead also entertain a longing and a fascination with the American West. In this respect, it seems remarkable that a Swiss born photographer produced an image that shaped the decidedly American iconography of these desires. Yet, unlike his fellow countryman Robert Frank, Hannes Schmid embellished the (self) image of the United States rather than deconstructing it. Schmid’s Cowboys have become part of us, whether we are American or not.
Hannes Schmid was born in Zurich in 1946. He studied photography at the Ruth Prowse School of Art, Cape Town, South Africa. Recent exhibitions include Never Look Back, Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur; A Star is Born, Museum Folkwang, Essen; Echoes, Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris; and Who Shot Rock: Photographers of Rock and Roll, Brooklyn Museum, New York, which is currently touring the U.S. Schmid is also exhibiting at the Rubin Museum, New York, with Human Currents, his film and photographs of the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela pilgrimage to the Ganges River in northeastern India (22 July – 13 November 2011). Schmid was awarded the prestigious Delphic Art Movie Award in Berlin for his film “For Gods Only” in 2011. A major retrospective and accompanying catalogue is planned at the Kunstmuseum Bern in 2013.