maandag 11 februari 2019

Views & Reviews An Unvarnished Look at Los Angeles Rodeo Drive 1984 Anthony Hernandez Photography

Anthony Hernandez : Rodeo Drive 1984
by Hernandez, Anthony; Ralph Rugoff; Et Al
Rodeo Drive, 1984 is a series of 41 images of shoppers on Beverly Hills' infamous shopping highway. The subjects appear caught unaware, glancing up as they walk, or daydreaming as they wait to be served in its commercial landscape of shops and restaurants. Anthony Hernandez poses as a dispassionate observer, recording the big hair, wide shoulders and cinched waists of the 1980's in sunlit photographs. Hernandez does not simply document the urban experience, but reveals in his images the complexity of social spaces, implying economic disparity and racial divide. Layers of socio-economic tension are exposed on a street in an overt symbol of civic success; as Lewis Baltz observes, "these are the victors...enjoying the spoils of their victory on Rodeo Drive". Working in the 1970s, Hernandez and his contemporaries, who included Lewis Baltz and Terry Wild, were interested in photographing the social landscape of Los Angeles. Hernandez work was included in a landmark exhibition, The Crowded Vacancy, at the Pasadena Art Museum, LA (now the Norton Simon Museum) in 1971, which introduced to the public a new type of American landscape photography – four years prior to New Topographics; both exhibitions inspired an aesthetic movement that continues to resonate today.

An Unvarnished Look at Los Angeles
By Jonathan Blaustein Aug. 23, 2016 Aug. 23, 2016
Twenty-first century culture, with its social media mores, trains artists to seek out “likes” and “favorites.” Acclaim becomes the immediate goal, rather than a byproduct of good work, honed over years of dedication to craft.

Anthony Hernandez, a 69-year-old photographer from Los Angeles, is a model of the old-school approach. He is little known outside pockets of the art world, yet he has been grinding away for nearly 50 years. Fortunately, his efforts will receive wider recognition this fall, as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is presenting a massive retrospective of his work, which opens Sept. 24, and publishing a monograph to accompany the show.

Both projects were the brainchild of Erin O’Toole, a curator with the museum and a fellow Angeleno, who became smitten with Mr. Hernandez’s photographs while conducting research in 2010.

Rodeo Drive #7.Credit Anthony Hernandez

“The more I dug, the more he seemed really interesting to me,” she said. “At one point, I mentioned to my then-boss Sandy [Sandra Phillips] that I was interested in his work. Had he ever had a big show? She had been supporting him for a long time. She bought work over the years and really loved it. She was really excited that I was interested, and encouraged me to propose a retrospective.”

Ms. O’Toole was drawn to the stark, bleak depictions of her home city, which were so different from the glamorized visions presented in art and popular culture.

“The first time I saw those pictures, they bowled me over,” she said. “They were the only ones I’ve ever seen that captured that sense of Los Angeles, to me. The unidealized Los Angeles. The real L.A. that I knew. That incredible quality of light. And this wide-openness of the long boulevards. The combination of physical beauty and the sort of ruin that you see in L.A.”

Mr. Hernandez, who now splits his time between Los Angeles and Idaho, has been photographing those streets since he was a youth, having picked up photography after a high school friend randomly gave him a camera manual. He says his approach is simply an extension of a lifetime as an observer, beginning on the streets of Boyle Heights, the neighborhood in which he grew up near downtown.

“I loved to walk, versus taking the streetcar or bus home,” he said. “That walking was always taking different routes home. Exploring the alleys. Just looking, you might say. In that sense, that started when I was a lot younger, before I got that book.”

During a trip he took to New York in 1970, his black-and-white street photographs drew him into the orbit of some of the most famous American photographers, as John Szarkowski, the famed curator at the Museum of Modern Art, introduced him to Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. They encouraged him to continue with his work, as he had no real formal training. And back then, unlike today, there were no hordes of photographers on every corner, snapping shutters or pushing icons on cellphones.

“The only photographer that I always used to run into when I was starting off in the ’70s and early ’80s was Garry Winogrand, who I knew in New York,” Mr. Hernandez said. “I’d bump into him whether it was in Venice, or downtown L.A. Beverly Hills. And we’d always get together after for coffee.”

Though Winogrand frequented those locales, Mr. Hernandez was more wide-ranging, walking through places like South Central, Compton and Watts. His style continued to evolve, as he changed cameras and formats over time. Through it all, however, working-class Los Angeles has remained his muse, partly, he said, because he has always made it a point to leave the city. (He even did a stint as a medic during the Vietnam War.)

Rome 17.Credit Anthony Hernandez

Ms. O’Toole says this willingness to take risks, and to constantly push himself, distinguishes Mr. Hernandez from many of his contemporaries.

“He would also leave formats or subjects behind that were successful,” she said. “That’s very brave as an artist to do that.”

The show arrives as San Francisco is undergoing a homelessness crisis, so it seems a perfect time to display photographs that take such an empathetic, original view of what life is like on the streets. Mr. Hernandez first explored the issue in the late ’80s, with “Landscapes for the Homeless,” a series that features the tragic, unwelcoming spaces that homeless people inhabit.

He returned to the subject in his recent project “Forever,” which he named in honor of a friend, the photographer Lewis Baltz, who died in 2014. In these images, Mr. Hernandez finds and locates places where homeless people sleep, lies down in their stead and makes photographs of the views from the makeshift beds.

Ms. O’Toole, while admitting she had not planned to create dialogue around homelessness back in 2010, is nevertheless glad the exhibition will inject the issue into public discourse.

“It’s devastating. I think about it every day,” she said. “I think about how can we, in one of most expensive cities in the world, be O.K. with the fact there are all these people falling through cracks and having to live on the streets. It’s completely inexcusable. That’s my personal feeling.”

Other series also tackle economic and social inequality, dating to 1970, when Mr. Hernandez offered a sardonic take on Edward Weston’s classic photo of his wife, Charis Wilson, nude in the sand. (He photographed street people on the beach instead.) More recently, his project “Discarded” illuminated the devastation wrought by the housing crisis and Great Recession on less-enticing, inland parts of California.

Through it all, Mr. Hernandez has continued to work. While he contends that having influential friends and supporters is crucial to every artist’s success, he was clear that his goals have always been to grow, and make the best pictures he can. While he’s certainly excited to be celebrated with a big exhibition in a white-hot city, that’s not what has motivated him all these years.

“I’d say something has to drive you,” he concluded. “Whatever that is, you’re going to have to, no matter what, just keep doing it. Because if you stop, then it’s all over. You just have to keep going. That worked for me.”

Jonathan Blaustein is an artist and writer based in New Mexico. He contributes regularly to the blog A Photo Editor.

Each week, the Guardian Weekend magazine's editorial team choose a picture, or set of pictures, that particularly tickle their fancy. This week, their choice is Rodeo Drive by Anthony Hernandez
Hannah Booth

Fri 30 Nov 2012 16.30 GMT

When photographer Anthony Hernandez decided to shoot in colour for the first time, he headed to the one place that summed up the bright, sunlit optimism and heady consumption of 1980s California: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

With its well-coiffed pedestrians, glass store fronts and air of luxury, the street made a sharp contrast to the gritty corners and desolate bus stops of working-class east Los Angeles that Hernandez had shot in black and white. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

Yet for all its air of exclusivity, there are few vulgar displays of wealth – rather, a quieter sense of privilege mixed with a whiff of trying a bit too hard. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

This restraint is reflected in the muted colour palette: Hernandez deliberately overexposed the film to lend the images a faded, sun-bleached patina – as opposed to pop, saturated colour – which today ages the photographs almost as much as the gravity-defying perms, shoulder pads and outsize glasses. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

Hernandez shot fast while walking, barely stopping for more than a few seconds at a time. 'I was trying to be invisible,' he says. 'I didn’t want the confrontations that come with taking more considered photographs.' →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

The result is a set of unguarded, natural portraits of people who often weren’t even aware they were being photographed. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

Expressions are vacant, bored and quizzical, and heads are turned away from the camera. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

The pre-digital age meant Hernandez never knew if his shots would even be in focus, let alone how they might turn out. →
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

He has shot in colour countless times since, but this was the last time he ever photographed people. He denies it – 'I just discovered landscapes, that’s all' – but perhaps his brief brush with the upscale residents of Beverly Hills left a nasty taste. Courtesy Mack
Photograph: Anthony Hernandez

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