Peter Beard (American, b. 1938)
Ulysses Grant’s Definition on History: ‘Just one goddam thing after another’
Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, November 5, 1996
Multi-media Chromogenic Print with Collage
Signed, dated and inscribed in white ink (on the recto)
73 1/2 x 47 in
Please note that this is a unique work.
Literature: Beard, PB, 2, Taschen, 2006, no. 343, p. 141
The practice of keeping diaries and capturing photographic remembrances has always been an inherent part of who Peter Beard is. He took his first photographs at the age of twelve and has documented his life experiences through images that he frequently compiles into his personal diaries. These images, along with his personal diaries, which include natural objects collected along the way, are part of the assemblage of his path as an artist, and as his journeys as a man of the world. Beard is passionate in his perpetual war against the unethical game hunting of elephants and other wildlife in Africa. Congruent with long stretches of his life spent there, he has collaborated with many well-known artists such as Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Andrew Wyeth, as well as the writer Truman Capote. His images of The Rolling Stones during their 1972 American tour are among the most iconic in the band's history.
THE PRESENT WORK:
In 1996, only a few months prior to his upcoming one-man exhibition in Paris, Carnets Africains, he was trampled and punctured by the tusk of an elephant in Africa. This work, of impressive size and deep and powerful in meaning, was assembled shortly after this near death experience, and features the x-rays of his skull and upper torso. He has positioned these x-rays at the center of the Chromogenic Print and as its largest image, suggesting the significance of his survival and an new appreciation of life in light of coming so close to losing his own . The images in the Print surrounding the x-rays are varying in subject, though are primarily cutouts of clippings from his personal diaries. The images are powerfully telling of Beard's lifelong dedication to Africa and the suffering that he has endured.Beard has juxtaposed an assemblage of “found objects” on top of the Chromogenic Print. These include: a feather, photographs—including ones of children (unidentified) and of beard himself, a pack of matches and a small envelope filled with newspaper clippings with words underlined in ink, message book notes, a photograph, etc. His inscription-- in white ink across the bottom of the piece--titles the work and with a Statement typical of Beards sardonic humor: "Ulysses Grant's Definition of History: 'Just one goddamn thing after another. " To the right of the inscription it is signed and dated. This multi-media work including a collage of found objects – actual props on the stage of Beard’s life-- is a significant part of his oeuvre created at a pivotal point in his life. The fact that Beard chose and placed the items, much like he assembles his diaries, is especially significant.