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New Book & Exhibition: The Polaroid Years

Thu, Jul 25, 2013

Books, Pop Culture


Robert Heinecken
Hustler Blind Beaver Hunt, 1979
Eight Polaroid SX-70 prints with offset lithography
© Robert Heinecken Trust

 

Our friend, Mary-Kay Lombino, curator at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, spent the past five years putting together the excellent exhibition and companion art book, “THE POLAROID YEARS:¬†Instant Photography and Experimentation.”

Before Polaroids went the way of the dinosaurs, we used to recommend them as the ideal medium for saucy couples who wanted to experiment with taking naughty pics together (hey, no negatives or digital files!). So we were not surprised to find a bunch of nudes when Mary gave us a tour of the show. Of course, she and her colleagues have a much more erudite analysis of the art form: in Peter Buse’s essay “The Perversity of Polaroid” that opens Mary-Kay’s book, he writes:

It is something of an open secret that Polaroid, by eliminating the dark room and taking the professional photo-finisher out of the equation, turned countless of its users into amateur pornographer or erotic artists. Not only did Polaroid lift a basic inhibition, it added an extra dimension to the privately made erotic image, and one whose charge was increased by appearing in the very scene in which it was made….

Lucas Samaras declared: “I was my own Peeping Tom” and gives a frank confession about the primal scene of his Photo-Transformation series:

“I came home and I took my clothes off and it was wonderful. I never had such a wonderful experience with a camera or photography before. It was like finding some fantastic lover, and you were unworthy, but you were glad that this ethereal creature was paying you a visit.”

Below are a few excerpts from the exhibition. It’s no longer up at Vassar, but the show will be traveling to the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Chicago from September 20th, 2013 through December 1st, 2013, after which it will move on to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach from December 19th, 2013 through March 23rd, 2014.¬†¬†Definitely check it out if you can. And consider “The Polaroid Years” as a gift for any photographers, nudists, art collectors or adventurous couples in your life!


Lucas Samaras
AutoPolaroid, 1971
Polaroid with hand-applied ink
© Lucas Samaras

 


Les Krims
Bubble Gum Test, 1974
Polaroid SX-70 print
© Les Krims

 


John Coplans
Untitled, 1997
Polaroid Type 55 print
© The John Coplans Trust

 


Jack Butler
#1, 1978, from Sex-70 series
Polaroid SX-70 print
© Jack Butler

 


Lucas Samaras
AutoPolaroid, 1971
Polaroid with hand-applied ink
© Lucas Samaras

 


Les Krims
Roses, Gestural Stripes, 1974
Polaroid SX-70 print
© Les Krims

 

from “THE POLAROID YEARS: Instant Photography and Experimentation” (Prestel) by Mary-Kay Lombino, with Peter Buse

 

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