‘Patti Smith: Camera Solo’ opens at Detroit art museum
DETROIT – The Detroit Institute of Arts has lifted the curtain on the exhibition “Patti Smith: Camera Solo,” which is composed of more than 60 black-and-white gelatin silver prints taken with her vintage Polaroid camera. The exhibition will be on view through Sept. 2, and is free with museum admission.
Pioneering musician, poet, author and artist Smith has made her mark on the American cultural landscape throughout her 40-year career, 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.
“Patti Smith: Camera Solo” explores themes that are significant to Smith: poets and writers; portraiture, including symbolic portraits; travel; and art and architecture. Smith’s photographs highlight the rich relationships between art, architecture, poetry and the everyday. Her titles reference varied muses, such as Roberto Bolaño’s Chair, Herman Hesse’s Typewriter and My Father’s Cup. Such objects are tightly cropped and detached from their surroundings; divorced from their original function, they become devotional images.
“These intimate photographs provide a fascinating look at the world as seen through Patti Smith’s eyes,” said Graham W.J. Beal, DIA director. “Both longtime fans and people newly exposed to her work will be impressed by her truly touching commemoration of the artists, poets, authors, family and friends from whom she draws inspiration.”
Smith began taking 35 mm photographs in 1968 as components for collages and took up the serious use of the Polaroid Land Camera in 1995. Her photos are infused with personal significance and possess the same unfiltered, emotional quality prevalent in her poetry and song lyrics. The allure of her photographs is their often dream-like imagery, and their modest size belies their depth and power.
Smith’s use of a vintage Polaroid Land 250 camera lends intimacy to her images, whether casual, unvarnished portraits of herself and her children, or symbolic portraits such as Mapplethorpe’s slippers. 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. She finds the poetic qualities of a particular time and place, and captures that beauty on film.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 96-page catalog distributed by Yale University Press. It will be available in the museum shop in softcover for $25.
This exhibition was organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Conn.
Patti Smith (b. 1946) began as a visual artist and has been drawing and taking photographs since the late 1960s. Her work has been shown at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; the Museum Boijsman Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; 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 1960s and ’70s, won her the 2010 National Book Award in the nonfiction category. Her 1975 album, Horses, established Smith as one of the most original and important musical artists of her generation and was followed by nine releases, including Radio Ethiopia, Easter, Dream of Life, Gone Again and Trampin’. She continues to perform throughout the world and in 2007 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE