WILLIAM MORTENSEN +
THE COVEN OF THE SIBYLLINE

 Featuring Alexis Karl, Kim Bo Yung, Anaïs Delsol, Nyahzul C Blanco, Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos, Vivien Masters, Tiffany Hsiang, Tine Kindermann, Aurore Lephilipponnat, Josh Stebbins, Barry William Hale, Ken Weaver, Zach Brown, Alessandro Keegan.

curated by Stephen Romano 

William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) Courtney Crawford with Masks circa 1924
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New Works of Art In Homage to William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) and most of the works by Mortensen in the exhibition are newly discovered, and have never been seen in public until now.

"William Mortensen’s 20th Century Photos Are Some Of The Most Beautifully Terrifying Images Ever Made" - Huffington Post

For us, William Mortensen was the antichrist." - Ansel Adams

The Living Gallery Outpost

246 EAST 4th Street (Avenue B and E4th) EAST VILLAGE NEW YORK

Opening reception SATURDAY NOVEMBER 25 2017 6 - 9 pm

Exhibition continues through TUESDAY NOVEMBER 28 8pm Gallery Hours 10 am - 9pm

 

William Mortensen Untitled circa 1924
William Mortensen Salome circa 1926
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November 2017 - Stephen Romano Gallery is thrilled to announce the exhibition "WILLIAM MORTENSEN + THE COVEN OF THE SIBYLLINE" in association with The Living Gallery Outpost in New York City's East Village, with an opening reception Saturday November 25th from 6 - 9pm.

The exhibition will feature newly discovered and never seen before works by American cultural treasure WILLIAM MORTENSEN, also renowned as the Father of Pictorialism, an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. The art of William Mortensen has in recent years seen a revival as the artist has been celebrated as seminal in the art of manipulated photography and gothic subject matter.

The exhibition will also feature newly created works by contemporary artists  Featuring Alexis Karl, Kim Bo Yung, Anaïs Delsol, Nyahzul C Blanco, Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos, Vivien Masters, Tiffany Hsiang, Tine Kindermann, Aurore Lephilipponnat, Josh Stebbins, Barry William Hale, Ken Weaver, Zach Brown and Alessandro Keegan. Each artist has paid tribute to the art of William Mortensen by creating a work of their own which has been inspired by a work by Mortensen.

Most of the works by Mortensen in the exhibition are newly discovered, from the collection of his close friend and associate Quenton Bredt (to whom Mortensen bequeathed his own personal collection) and from the estate of his first wife Courtney Crawford, and have never been exhibited in public until now.

William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) was an American Photographer, primarily known for his Hollywood portraits in the 1920s-1940s in the pictorialist style.

"Ansel Adams called him ‘the Antichrist’ and wanted him written out of history. But William Mortensen’s grotesque photographs of death, nudity and torture and are now having their day.. A monograph on the artist was produced by Feral House in 2014 to great acclaim, including major articles on the artist in The Guardian, The LA Times and The Smithsonian. In addition, many exhibition have included the art of William Mortensen, including "American Grotesque" at Stephen Romano Gallery, as well as exhibitions at The Museum of Old and New, Scope Art Fair, The Metro Show, The Outsider Art Fair, as well as a major solo exhibition at the Dark MoFo Festival curated by Barry William Hale in 2018.

..Mortensen’s methods often made it hard to distinguish whether the results were photographs or not. He used traditional printmaking techniques, such as bromoiling, and developed many of his own. He would create composite images, scratch, scrape and draw on his prints, then apply a texture that made them look like etchings, thereby disguising his manipulations. Consequently, every print was unique. Ultimately, Mortensen’s aim was to create something that, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a photograph, yet portrayed scenes so fantastic they caused wonder and astonishment in the viewer.

 

William Mortensen Untitled circa 1924
William Mortensen A Hindoo Woman circa 1924
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..His love of the fantastic and the grotesque was, then, partly an outward expression of his love to shock, but it had another purpose: by giving form to such emotions as fear and hatred, Mortensen believed “we are enabled to lessen their power over us”. He added: “When the world of the grotesque is known and appreciated, the real world becomes vastly more significant.”

..It was these kinds of ideas that so angered Adams and his Group f/64 brethren devoted to photography that depicted a pure, unmediated reality. This began a spirited debate with Mortensen within the pages of the magazine that became ever more vitriolic. However, Adams did not stop there, suggesting in a personal letter to Mortensen that he “negotiate oblivion”. When fellow photographer Edward Weston wrote telling of his excitement at photographing a “fresh corpse”, Adams replied: “My only regret is that the identity of said corpse is not our Laguna Beach colleague.”

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William Mortensen The Old Hag circa 1928, Caprice Vanois circa 1926

..The critics Beaumont Newhall and his wife Nancy held the same view: Beaumont consciously excluded Mortensen from his grandiosely titled 1949 book The History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present Day. Their distaste would not even allow them to acknowledge Mortensen’s mastery of his craft. Ultimately though, for all the griping of Adams and f/64, it turns out that Mortensen was the true modernist all along, not them. For today, we are surrounded by images of the fantastic and unreal.

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William Mortensen "Bill Mortensen as Bill" circa 1924, "Faye Wray" circa 1924.

THE COVEN OF THE SIBYLLINE is a companion exhibition of works by contemporary artists that are in response to and homage to the Art of William Mortensen.

"SIBYLLINE" refers to "characteristic of a sibyl; prophetic; oracular." In this instance the term is mean to pay tribute to William Mortensen being far ahead of his time, so much so in fact that he was persecuted in his day as being part of the tradition of novelty photography, when in fact, Mortensen was advancing an artform and would bear tremendous influence on future generations, as well as the technology of digital photography.

Oklahoma artist Josh Stebbins, who was previously featured in the the exhibition "The Devil's House" with a tribute to William Mortensen and actually originated the idea for this exhibition, will feature more than one work. His initial offering, pictured below, is in reference to the work "Tragedy" by William Mortensen from 1930.

Josh Stebbins recreates the image, and found the word "DEVIL" in "TRAGEDY" and cast a demonic shadow in the background. Josh Stebbins's drawings are beautifully rendered and evident of the the craft by the artist's hand. Other artists in the exhibtion include Featuring Alexis Karl, Kim Bo Yung, Anaïs Delsol, Nyahzul C Blanco, Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos, Vivien Masters, Tiffany Hsiang, Tine Kindermann, Aurore Lephilipponnat, Josh Stebbins, Barry William Hale, Ken Weaver, Zach Brown, Alessandro Keegan.


William Mortensen "TRAGEDY" circa 1930 -- Josh Stebbins's "TRAGEDY" in homage to William Mortensen, 2017

 

William Mortensen "The Make Believe Lady" circa 1923 vs Josh Stebbins's “Mistress of Will” 2017
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William Mortensen "Meditation" circa 1924 and Josh Stebbins's “Mistress of Will” 2017


Josh Stebbins was born in Enid Oklahoma, August 31st 1982, he creates drawings/illustrations (pencil & ink), as well as watercolor and mixed media artworks. By examining the duality of life in it's many variations, Stebbins tries to relate a sense of beauty (and even humor) in the darker aspects of what influences his work, to his audience; often leading to many different interpretations. His artwork takes macabre, religious, elegant, and even cartoon related content merging it together in various metaphors and ironic forms, leaving the viewer (hopefully), thinking as to what the puzzle is behind each piece. Using mainly pen and ink, each work lends itself immediately to a stark contrast that is not only black and white, but also a classical sense mixed with surrealism and pop culture. His art often opens up a world shadows and creepy subjects, but at its core, they deliver a message to the viewer to embrace that which might be unsettling and find that without darkness there cannot be light, and without ugliness there cannot be beauty. *Josh has been featured in various galleries such as La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Stephen Romano Gallery, Stranger Factory, Arch Enemy Gallery, Haas Brothers Gallery, El Cuervo Gallery, Dark Art Emporium Gallery etc.

 

Ken Weaver Incubus 2017 ..... William Mortensen "The Incubus" from "west of Zanzibar" circa 1924
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Ken Weaver is an artist that lives and works in Brooklyn NY. He has had solo and group shows over the last 20 years in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Paris at galleries such as Schroeder Romero and Shredder, Barbara Gladstone, Regen Projects, Tony Shafrazi, Heather Marx, Mark Moore Gallery and Gmodule. He is currently obsessed with the depiction of monsters, in all of their manifestations."

 

William Mortensen "The Inquisition" from "A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft" series circa 1926 ..... Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos "Dark vision" 2017
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Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos (b.1982) is a Brazilian self-taught artist whose work plunges on the realms of the mythical, mystical and occult. Lupe worked as a graphic designer, tattoo artist and children’s book illustrator before start pursuing her own particular artistic voice. Lupe currently resides in the mountain town of Teresopolis, Brazil.

 

William Mortensen "The Witch Lady with her Scrying Bowl and Skull" circa 1924 .... Alexis Palmer Karl "Scrying Bowl"  Found antlers, Obsidian , calabash bowl, water 2017

Alexis Palmer Karl - Stills from the film "SYBILLINE" 2017

Alexis Palmer Karl - "SYBILLINE" 2017 3:55

Alexis Palmer Karl is a multidisciplinary artist, professor at Pratt Institute and School of Visual Arts, and scholar and lecturer on magic and ritualism in art, fashion and fragrance. She has lectured extensively on ritualistic shamanic practices and folkloric magic, and the relevance of ritual within artistic culture at both the Metropolitan Museum and The Morbid Anatomy Museum, where she was the house perfumer and an exhibiting artist.

Karl’s art work is concerned with a reinterpretation of magical objects and the illustration of oracular magic through sculpture, film, Gothic dark ambient music, ritual fragrance, and large scale portraits of witches. Her solo exhibition at Pratt Institute, “The Ecstasy of Forbidden Daylight”, is based on studies of 18th century accounts of witchcraft trials from her research in the UK, and a series of her lectures at The Morbid Anatomy museum, and serves to bring the archetype of the Witch into the modern era.

 

In her homage to William Mortensen, Kindermann's "Jael" kills a sleeping enemy by driving a peg in his temple, and saves her people from the threat of a warrior. Tine's works, like Mortensen's, pays tribute to heroic mythical women. Aesthetically it draws it's sensibility from Mortensen's often underappreciated later works from the mid 1940's.

Tine Kindermann is a Berlin-born visual artist and singer living in New York. For the past decade she has created intimate scenarios inside of boxes, reminiscent of the European tradition of "Guckkasten" (peephole installation) and Wunderkammer. Made from drawers and crates found in the streets of New York, with figurines sculpted by the artist, these miniature worlds invite the viewer to participate as a voyeur in a story told without worlds, in which the dollhouse format often belies the severity of what has happened.

An important part of this work is a series based on Grimm's Fairy Tales. Many of these dark stories have poignant moments in which the hero or heroine experiences an event that turns their lives around. At the core of these moments lies a terrible stillness, time stopping for a heartbeat. These moments, and the feelings associated with their implied consequences, are what Tine Kindermann tries to capture in images.

 

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Barry William Hale ‘ Heaven and Earth are Married, When the Dragon and Tiger Meet.’  2017
includes Mortensen "Sojin" c. 1929, "Anna May Wong" original photographic prints c. 1929

‘ Heaven and Earth are married, when the Dragon and Tiger Meet.’ : Barry William Hale: A Taoist Alchemical process refracted through a Western Magical Lense The Male and Female Characters in the Mortensen portraits are brought together in a Heiros-Gamos inspired, the Diagram of the Precious Mirror from the Alchemical Laboratory of the Master Purple Yang. The work includes the integration of two original 1929 portraits by William Mortensen of Sôjin Kamiyama and Anna Mae Wong.

Barry William Hale is an Australian based artist. His artwork has been exhibited in major Australian institutions and featured in the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Sydney Biennial. His artwork was a central component of the national touring exhibition Windows to the Sacred. He also exhibited in I:mage 1 and 2 curated by Robert Ansell as well as "Opus Hypnagogia" at Morbid Anatomy Museum and "Lexicon Infernali" at Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn. His book "Legion 49" was published by Fulgur Esoterica in 2009 to great acclaim. Barry William Hale curated the exhibition "The Occult Visions of Rosaleen Norton" in 2000 in Sydney. Barry William Hale's works was most recently the subject of a feature on Disinfo.com.

 

Kim Bo Yung "Salome" pencil on paper ---- William Mortensen "Salome", circa 1930 detail

A self-taught artist, Kim Bo Yung had always been interested in art, but didn’t didn’t focus on her own creative projects until about five years ago. She began drawing as a meditative exercise to explore dreams and recurring nightmares she’s had since childhood. “Drawing is the only way I know how to purge the demons,” she says, citing her dreams as the primary inspiration for subjects. “I have great admiration and love for the art form of drawing, and work mostly on paper.” Recent projects also include illustrations for books and publications primarily in the weird fiction and horror genres. She was born in Korea and now resides in the Portland area of the U.S,’ Pacific Northwest.


Other artists included in the exhibition are Alessandro Keegan, Nyahzul C Blanco, Vivien Masters, Zach Brown, , Tiffany Hsiang and Tine Kindermann.

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Alessandro Keegan "Through the Borderland"
Alessandro Keegan "A Silver Key"
Alessandro Keegan "Sleep Has Its House"

 

From the artist "For me, Mortensen’s work embodies two things: the forbidden side of consciousness where sexual desires and dark impulses are stored and the medium of photography’s ability to move between reality and artifice.

These cyanotype pictures, which have been worked over with pencil and gouache, blend photographic images (a pair of legs in stockings and a picture I took in the caves of Elephanta island in India years ago) with drawings from my imagination.

Like Mortensen, I am combining the medium of photography with other tools of artistic embellishment to create a layered, imaginary world. I am also delving into subjects that are not too far from Mortensen either: exotic locations, erotic hallucinations and an atmosphere that evokes weird fiction. "- Alessandro Keegan

Alessandro Keegan (b.1980) is a visual artist and writer with an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently an MA candidate in art history at Brooklyn College and a professor of art history at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. His paintings and drawings, which depict forms that straddle the line between science and mysticism, have been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Den Hague. Writings about his work have appeared in journals such as Helvete (Punctum Books, Brooklyn), J’ai Froid (Castillo/ Corrales, Paris) and online at Ephemera NYC (nyc.ephemera-art.com).

other artists included in the exhibtion:

William Mortensen "Meditation" circa 1924
Nyahzul C Blanco "Completely, Incomplete" 2017

 

Nyahzul is a self-taught multi media artist born in Bogotá, Colombia and based in Brooklyn, NY. She has been actively creating, exhibiting, and curating for over a decade across the U.S. in Los Angeles, Orlando, Detroit, New York City, Las Vegas and in her hometown of Bogotá. Currently she is the Associate Director of Rabbithole Studios in Brooklyn. Her complex personal works evoke magical and romantic narratives that explore the many facets of femininity, darkness and light within, and finding unity between the two.

 

Vivien Masters “Self Portrait with Death Play a Fiddle After Arnold Bocklin”

VIVIEN MASTERS was born 1987 in Auckland, New Zealand. Growing up in New Zealand surrounded by dark native forest, Masters’ developed an early affinity with nature and the unknown. Her classically informed figurative paintings of physically and emotionally isolated women draw from the mystery and beauty of the natural world, and it’s relentless cycles of birth, death and decay. Masters’ emotionally charged pieces offer introspective views of melancholy, strength and vulnerability.

Masters graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree of Visual Arts from the Auckland University of Technology in 2009. Her work has been exhibited across New Zealand, Australia and the United States. She is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.

 

Anaïs Delsol Dentelle de petite fille, 2013

Anaïs Delsol is a Brooklyn-based multimedia and ritual artist with a creative practice working with themes of transmutation, the dualities of the sacred and the profane, mythology in material, and how experience is limited and expanded by perception and sensation. 

 

Zach Brown "mocking" 2017

Zach Brown "MOCKING" 2017

Zach Brown, a 27-year-old Pittsburgh painter, creates paintings teeming with mythological and spiritual references. He accomplishes this with a blend of both metallic and subdued hues, focusing on the human form and injecting it into surreal situations. Influences seem to range from William Blake to Paul Gauguin. 

When Local Pittsburgh asked the artist about the themes in his work, he offered this: “Bodies… Stillness is a big theme. There isn’t a lot of movement in my paintings. I’m really into the idea of thinking of my paintings as totems or zero-relief sculptures. That’s a big reason I work life-size or larger. I don’t really want them to be scenes but things all their own. Russian icons are really good at being objects with representational elements.”

 

   
Tiffany Hsiang Fay Wray (in progress) 2017

Tiffany Hsiang is a Taiwanese American artist, born and raised in New York City, who studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her first exhibition was "The Devil's House" curated by Stephen Romano for The Living Gallery Outpost in October of 2017.

Tiffany Hsiang has interpreted a classic portrait of Fay Wray, whom William Mortensen brought out to hollywood. Wray was Mortensen’s first Hollywood subject and he served as her chaperone while she acclimated to studio culture (1921-24). Wray’s mother was responsible for the destruction of all glass plate negatives Mortensen took of Fay and the subsequent censure of Mortensen by Paramount instigated by her, resulted in his leaving Los Angeles to establish photography school in Laguna Beach. Mortensen destroyed the majority of his prints of Hollywood subjects at this time.

William Mortensen Untitled (Saint Courtney) circa 1924.
Aurore Lephilipponnat 
"somethg between, the natur, our animality, and the faith to God, divinity of women " 2017

Aurore Lephilipponnat 

Born in 1983 in Chartres, France, I study in Bordeaux University into master that i left to to dedicate myself more to my personal art. Still finding my discipline at this time, I sneaks into the world of computer graphics, as a graphic designer and poster artist, and somehow perseveres in painting until I arrived in Ste-Maxime .

I bind myself with an association, the Tabarnak, live art, with performers painters. From there was born my desire to reconnect with the living material, paint, large  formats, and experience nurtured by years I approaching subjects that become exciting for  me in my art and life path.

A way of life that brings me today to address very intimate themes around butoh dance, woman, body and soul, the links between mind and disorder our physical shell. Faces whose tearful cries immerse themselves in moments of light, when the veil falls and the nature of Human Beings finally appears, in counting, disembodied nudity.

«The contrast between the apparent fragility of the artist and the strength of his expression, feverish body, emptied of their flesh, expressing emotional states, entense violent, tortured, convulsions deformed seem to be the ultimate truth of each, beyond the physical body, only the expression sometimes leaving a soothing glimpse perspective bright, spiritual... "

 

for further information and images please contact Stephen Romano romanostephen@gmail.com

n.b. illustrations are in some cases representative of the artists's works, and are not necessarily included in the exhibition

 

The LIVING GALLERY

MISSION STATEMENT
The Living Gallery Outpost is dedicated to supporting the arts through learning and communication in lower Manhattan.
 
VISION STATEMENT
The Living Gallery Outpost celebrates emerging and established artists and creators by maintaining an affordable space for artists, supportive programming, and community events. We believe that through art and communication love and peace emerge. We seek to create a non-competitive and welcoming environment, where everyone feels equal and celebrated.  

 

Stephen Romano Biography.

Stephen Romano has been in the art business since 1989 when he began working for the late legendary Canadian art dealer Walter Moos in Toronto. Shortly afterwards, Stephen Romano was hired as assistant director of the 49th Parallel Gallery in New York City, then followed a series of engagements with prominent galleries such as Marlyn Pearl Gallery, Miriam Shiell Gallery, The Ricco Maresco Gallery in New York, where Stephen served as Gallery Manager for 8 years. For the next ten years from 2004 through 2014, Stephen Dealt privately and played a pivotal role in building some of the most significant collections of Self Taught and Outsider Art, particularly sourcing masterworks by Henry Darger, Charles Dellschau and Martin Ramirez.

In 2013, Stephen Romano produced the first ever book on Charles Dellschau which included the final published essay by Thomas McEvilley. The book was awarded vast critical acclaim as being of the highest standard, and established Dellschau as an outsider artist in the same Parthenon as Henry Darger, Adolph Wolfli and Martin Ramirez.

In July 2015 Stephen Romano curated "Opus Hypnagogia" at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, which received a 12 paragraph review in the New York Times.

In 2014, Stephen Romano opened an eponymous gallery in Dumbo Brooklyn where important exhibitions were mounted by William Mortensen, Colin Christian, Darcilio Lima, as well as extravagantly themed group exhibitions. The Gallery moved to Bushwick in 2015 and continued presenting museum quality exhibitions, including the highly acclaimed "Magica Sexualis" and "Saint Bowie". Stephen Romano Gallery published a series of catalogs complimentary to it's exhibition program on artists such as William Mortensen, Darcilio Lima, El Gato Chimney, Colin Christian, Rithika Merchant, Jel Ena, and included essays by such luminaries as David Ebony, Robert Morgan, Pamela Grossman, Alison Meyer, Samuel Gliner of Between Mirrors and Decadence Darling.

Since the temporary closure of the gallery in Brooklyn, Stephen Romano Gallery has collaborated with major cultural institutions such as the MET Breuer and Reina Sophia Museum in presenting the works of Brazilian artist Darcilio Lima, as well as participated in art fairs including SCOPE and The Outsider Art Fair. Stephen Romano Gallery will present a one person exhibition of William Mortensen's art curated by Barry William Hale at the Dark MOFO festival in 2018, as well as an upcoming presentation of the Art of Charles Dellschau with details forthcoming.

This is the second collaborative exhibition between The Living Gallery and Stephen Romano Gallery.

for further information and images please contact Stephen Romano romanostephen@gmail.com

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