Up on the Chrysler

New-Yorker Bruce McCall

Bruce McCall, New Yorker magazine, May 2000

Do you recognise what this illustration refers to? Bruce McCall‘s cover for New Yorker magazine shows the gargoyles on the Chrysler Building coming to life and attacking a tiny human.

It’s based on a 1934 photograph of Margaret Bourke-White, the legendary photographer of the 1930s. She’s on one of the gargoyles 61 floors above Lexington Avenue, with her Graflex camera. Her assistant and collaborator Oscar Graubner took the photo, immortalizing her as an adventurer and free spirit.

One of the highest paid photographers in the world, Bourke-White was a celebrity and role model for her high energy images of the Machine Age. Two years later she shot the modern wonder of the age, the Hoover Dam, for the first cover of Life Magazine.

Her own studio was in the brand-new Chrysler, a symbol of technological progress, and one of the coolest address in New York. Previously the tallest building in the world with its sunburst tower in stainless steel, it was a poem to the Chrysler car, decorated with giant hub caps and those massive gargoyles which were modelled on the Chrysler car’s hood ornaments.

Bourke-White Chrysler


Rebekah Stuart

Dreaming in reverse

Rebekah Stuart, Dreaming in Reverse, 2104

Melbourne artist Rebekah Stuart is showing a series of large and impressive landscapes at the Colour Factory Gallery. These images evoke the Romantic landscape paintings of the early 19th century by Turner and Constable, but made in Australia.

The exhibition is titled Pictures of Elision, a word that hints at the mythical paradise of Elysium, but actually means a verbal contraction or omission. This must refer to her method. Stuart’s landscapes don’t exist as places, they are digitally combined from images of different locations, ‘contracted’ into one. Despite the painterly aesthetic they are quite photographic. Up close the digital noise is clearly visible and organic, and the overlapping fragments from different image files float in and out of view.

She doesn’t pretend they are paintings, but they come as close as I’ve ever seen to the technique of a painter.




Burn at Edmund Pearce


Greg Neville, Burn installation at Edmund Pearce gallery

My new solo exhibition, Burn, has opened at Edmund Pearce gallery, Melbourne’s leading gallery of photography. This is my second showing there, after last year’s Chemistry of Chance with Greg Wayn.

The Burn images are from a magazine I found on the ground at the Flinders Street rail yards. At the time I was trying to make photographs of the lines created by overhead wires, gantries and rails. I happened to look down and see a burnt and weathered magazine left under a bush. It turned out to be a porn magazine but it seemed to have the texture and faded colour of an ancient relic.

The trashy content, the physical decay and the curious fact of its being set fire to made it an intriguing artefact. Was it burnt to destroy evidence of some private sin, or in a symbolic destruction of Woman?

Over the years I’ve photographed it several times trying to raise the decayed object to a higher plane. Eventually scanning produced an appealing softness and glow although that alone was not enough. Every specific area has been lightened or darkened and adjusted in contrast and saturation, so much that the images in the exhibition practically amount to paintings.

The Burn project is a further instalment in my work on entropy and disorder. I’m interested in these liminal states where decay is nearing the point of abstraction and new images and meanings arise out of the old. The tears and ruptures in Burn constitute a new image, equivalent in beauty to the bodies and faces, and forming a commentary on them.

It’s the arrow of time, entropy’s other name. All organised structures end in disorder: a magazine, a photograph, or a body. It is a melancholy thought that time is at work on the bodies represented in the magazine, itself now twenty years old.