• THE DESPAIR OF THE SOUL - Joel-Peter Witkin Photography Exhibition 1
    Artist: Joel-Peter Witkin
    Curator: Alain Jullien
    Opening: 2015.04.11 / 15:00 - 19:00
    Duration: 2015.04.11 - 2015.05.14 / 10:00 - 18:00, Daily
    Venue: OFOTO Gallery&ANART. 2F, Building 13, 50 Moganshan Rd., Shanghai
    Artist and Curator will attend the opening ceremony

    The Despair of The Soul

    by Alain Jullien

    I know that the foundation of all my work rests on the despair of the soul. My photographic benefactors are dead. I live to create images representing the fight for the redemption of souls.

    - Joel Peter Witkin

    Photography is a medium; it is a way to express oneself and to that extend photography is not important. Only photographers, artists who use this medium, are of interest. They have something to say, they express what we, spectators, cannot. The role of artists is to enable us to face realities that we are not aware of. J.P. Witkin certainly is a master at showing our realities, our dreams or nightmares. Maybe confronting, at an early age, the rolling head of a young girl on the streets of New York was a starting point or a least a revelation. Fortunately it is a starting point, fortunately Witkin went on to explore and express his imagination. But that might not have been enough to become an artist. For our great pleasure, he often uses references of classic art in the Western world in his title like:Venus in Chains, The Raft of G. W. Bush, History of the White World, Venus and the Magdalen, Picasso en Los Disparates de Goya. He uses these references to go further in the photographic medium, to become “baroque” in the traditional meaning. After a long and rigorous era of classicism, a wind of freedom brings on baroque to music and painting in Europe of the 17th and 18th century. In photography, the classic trend is express by an inalterable link with reality. In portrait, landscape, even in documentary fields, a photograph cannot lie, cannot deviate from the Truth, but we know better, we understand that artists working with photography, use this link with reality to question our understanding of the rules and regulations, to make us aware of the multiple realities around us. Today the argument against digital manipulation comes from a fear of the disappearing relationship between reality and photography. So it is with great pleasure that we can present the photographic work of Joel peter Witkin. His silver prints, manipulated, scratched, drawn but photographic, shall be looked at and “read” as the results of his imagination, of course, but also of his education. I do not mean his diplomas or his reading ability; I definitely mean his visual and artistic education. He is, and then his work is the result of what was before him, he has not invented anything, but he translates his education, experiences and sensibility into two dimensional images that change our formatted understanding. These images open doors we did not know existed by using references to Western Art history through the filter of photography. Two dimensional images taking on multiple layers of perception to involve us in an artist mind. It is pure pleasure, beauty that lingers and permeates the soul of the viewer.

    I wish to thank, with great pleasure, Baudoin Lebon and his staff.


    Below is the introduction to be given by the person presenting Mr. Witkin to the audience:

    Joel Peter Witkin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1939 at the beginning of WWII to Mary and Max Witkin. As he grew, his father would show him photograph of the war in the newspapers. Joel decided then to be a photographer. He has made photographs since he was a child. After high school, Joel worked in photographic studios and laboratories.

    Joel enlisted in the army as a photographer when he was 21. His "war" was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963 when "a World War III" was in the balance.

    After three years of service, Joel received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cooper Union in Sculpture and a Fellowship in Poetry from Columbia University in 1974.

    He received a Masters in Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of New Mexico in 1976 and 1986 respectively.

    He has received four National Endowment for the Arts in photography from the United States. He has had over 150 one person exhibitions in galleries and museums. Twenty-five monographs have been published on his work. He is listed in "Who's Who in American Art", "Who's Who in America" and "Who's Who in the World".

    Among his honors: He was given the title of Commander of Arts and Letters of France in the year 2000.

    Joel lives with his wife Barbara on their small ranch in New Mexico with five horses, four llamas, 150 chickens , three dogs and two cats.


    Next is the introduction Joel himself will present to the audience:

    I am happy and humbled to be in China and to exhibit and explain my work.

    My work is about the condition of man in the world, through the history ,culture and beliefs of Western Man.

    I don't make photographs of man in the world the way many photographers do. Instead, I bring the world to a photographic studio and there, through my imagination, create the "worlds" I wish to photograph. I build the sets, find the subjects-then direct the events until I choose the perfect, most meaningful moment: I then take that moment OUT OF TIME and make it permanent as the photographic print which I alone can create.

    What that print must reveal are the physical, spiritual and emotional realities of "what it is to be human".  That is out truths, fantasies, follies, our morality, our loves, hopes and fears.

    But, what that print must contain within it is the metaphysical evidence of its maker's consciousness. All that the artist is, loves, believes in, lives for and needs to share with others. How that happens is the great mystery, the hunger of why art is created.

    It can never be explained because artists are born-not made.

    They are given a gift-the need to create original visions which inform and illuminate all of us.




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