Friday, September 23, 2011

Patti Smith & Photos At Wadsworth


Virginia Woolf’s Desk, Monk’s House, 2003
Unique Polaroid print, 4 ¼ x 3 ¼ in (image size)
© Patti Smith
Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum
Walt Whitman’s Tomb, Camden, NJ, 2007
Unique Polaroid print, 4 ¼ x 3 ¼ in (image size)
© Patti Smith
Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum

Artist, Musician and Poet Patti Smith’s
New Photography and Installation Work to be Presented
at the Wadsworth Atheneum

HARTFORD, Conn., Sept. 20, 2011 – From her explorations of artistic expression with friend and vanguard photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the 1960s and 70s to her profound influence on the nascent punk rock scene in the late 1970s and 80s, pioneering artist, musician, and poet Patti Smith has made her mark on the American cultural landscape throughout her 40-year career. This October, an exhibition of Smith’s work will premiere at the Wadsworth Atheneum, featuring over seventy photographs, one multimedia installation and one video work, created between 2002 and 2011.

The first museum presentation of Smith’s photography in the United States, Patti Smith: Camera Solo will highlight the relationship between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature and is on view from October 21, 2011 – February 19, 2012.

“Patti Smith’s photography, shaped over decades of observation, commemorates the artists, poets, authors, family and friends from whom she draws inspiration. Modest in scale and shot solely in black and white, they are sometimes disquieting and often beautiful, but always intimate,” said Susan Lubowsky Talbott, Director and CEO, Wadsworth Atheneum, and curator of the exhibition. “We are thrilled to present this work at the Wadsworth Atheneum where Smith’s mentor Sam Wagstaff Jr. was curator and the work of her dear friend Robert Mapplethorpe was the subject of two separate exhibitions.”

Erin Monroe, Acting Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum, served as the project coordinator for the exhibition.

Patti Smith: Camera Solo will present approximately seventy black-and-white silver gelatin prints photographed with her vintage Polaroid camera. In the era of digital imaging and manipulation, Smith’s works champion the use of photography in its most classical sense: as a tool to document a “found” moment. Their diminutive scale and diffused lighting emphasize the subtleties and the importance of each subject, as in Arthur Rimbaud’s Utensils or My Father’s Cup, where the objects are tightly-cropped and detached from their surroundings.

The installation, Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell), is titled after an extended poem written by the nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, one of Smith’s greatest muses. The installation serves as a symbol of Rimbaud’s arduous journey over land and sea, before his untimely death at age 37. The central element is a replica of the wooden litter used to transport the ailing poet over 100 miles from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) to France for medical assistance. Smith commissioned the piece based on a sketch by Rimbaud she viewed at the Musée Rimbaud in Charleville, France. On the surface of the litter, the artist has inscribed the poet’s last words. The entire object is shroud with heavy, black fishing net. Surrounding the piece will be a selection of photographs celebrating Rimbaud’s life and legacy.

In addition, the exhibition will include the 2008 film "Equation Daumal," on the French poet René Daumal, (1908-1944), who is known for his writings on spirituality and perception. This 16 mm Super 8 film was directed by Patti Smith with camera work by the New York-based filmmaker Jem Cohen (b.1962). Smith's distinctive voice narrates a dreamlike montage of images pertaining to Daumal’s life and writings. Several scenes are set in the Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, which appears in many of Patti Smith’s photographs in the exhibition.

The exhibition’s opening event on October 20th, 2011 will take place on Rimbaud’s birthday and, as she has done annually since 1974, Smith will stage a performance honoring him. This event, staged in the museum’s historic Aetna Theater, will benefit the museum and its programs. The performance will begin at 7:30 and Smith will be accompanied by longtime band member, Lenny Kaye, on guitar, and her daughter, Jesse Smith, on piano. The performance will be preceded by an intimate reception with the artist from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Tickets are available at

Patti will also be at the museum on Friday, October 21 for a book signing from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm of the exhibition’s illustrated catalogue, distributed by Yale University Press, which includes an interview with the artist by Talbott.

The Wadsworth is currently undergoing a comprehensive renovation across all five of the museum’s buildings, which will result in the addition of 8,000 square feet of reclaimed gallery space, a 14% increase, and the complete reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection. Marking the completion of the first phase of the renovation, the Morgan Great Hall reopened in May 2011 after a year-long closure, and has been reinstalled for the first time with large-scale works from the museum’s Contemporary art collection by artists such as Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Andreas Gursky, Robert Rauschenberg, Sean Scully, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, among others. The renovation will also bring significant improvements for visitors, including improved wayfinding, new interior and exterior signage, bi-lingual signage, and space for commissioned art on the exterior of the museum. The entire renovation project is slated for completion in 2013.

Support for the exhibition is provided by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, The Calvin Klein Family Foundation, Mark Bertolini, Lori and Liam McGee and The Larsen Photography Fund.

Patti Smith
Patti Smith (b. 1946) began as a visual artist and has been making drawings and taking photographs since the late 1960’s. In recent years her practice has expanded to include installation. The artist has been represented by Robert Miller Gallery since 1978. In 2008, Smith was the subject of Patti Smith Land 250 at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporaine, Paris, and Written Portrait - Patti Smith at Artium Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Strange Messenger: The Work of Patti Smith, was organized by The Andy Warhol Museum in 2002 and traveled to numerous venues including the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and the Museum Boijsman Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Her work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Eki, Kyoto; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Triennale di Milano, Milan; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Just Kids, a memoir of her remarkable relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe during the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies, won her the 2010 National Book Award in the nonfiction category. Her 1975 album Horses, established Smith as one of most original and important musical artists of her generation. She continues to perform throughout the world and in 2007 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In July of 2005 she was presented with the prestigious insignia of Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters, an esteemed French cultural honor. In May 2011, Smith won the Polar Music Prize, Sweden's most prestigious music award.

Contemporary Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum
Promoting contemporary art has always been an important expression of the museum’s mission, beginning with founder Daniel Wadsworth’s support of the fledgling Hudson River School in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1975, the Wadsworth was the first to embrace the idea of contemporary art in an “encyclopedic” museum through its MATRIX program, an ongoing series of single-artist exhibitions that have showcased more than 150 artists, providing many with their first solo museum exhibition in the United States—including Adrian Piper, Louise Lawler, Janine Antoni, and Dawoud Bey. Many MATRIX artists, such as Sol LeWitt, Willem de Kooning, Christo, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Gerhard Richter, are now considered seminal figures in contemporary art. Recent MATRIX artists include Kitty Kraus, Justin Lowe, Kim Schoenstadt, and Rashaad Newsome.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main St. in Hartford, Connecticut. The Museum is open Wednesdays to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please visit

Sarah A. Ferri
Institutional Advancement & Communications Assistant
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
600 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103

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