An interview with Allan Sekula conducted 2011 August 20-2012 February 14, by Mary Panzer, for the Archives of American Art at Sekula's studio and home in Los Angeles, California and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York.
Sekula speaks of his career and some of the mediums he works in; language and contemporary art; Roland Barthes; his relation to contemporary art; west coast conceptualism; genre switches; realism; documentary photography; Belgium and the industrial revolution; Meunier; minor figures; art history and marginalism; Roberto Matta; World War I; Homer Folks; Fish Story; historic cinema; economic factors of art shows and publication; galleries and the art world; growing up and his family; his father and moving; Ohio; his brothers and sisters; San Pedro; demographics of students at school; sports at school; Vietnam; protests; cross country and swimming; California; fishing; college; U.C. system; declaring a major; John Altoon; Ed Kienholz; exposure to art; visiting museums; Marcuse's classes; Baldessari's classes; course work and student life; student demonstrations; working in a library and exposure to books; father losing his job; science and working as a chemical technician; politics; his uncle committing suicide; moving away from his father; the draft; John Birch; Students for a Democratic Society; his mother; politics of his parents; Aerospace Folk Tales, autodidacts and scholarship; San Diego and Mexico; obtaining a camera and starting to use it; art school; CalArts; UCSD; Meditations on a Triptych; David Salle; Fred Lonidier; Phel Steinmetz; MFA and art training; poets; story of Allen Ginsberg and one of Sekula's sculptures; production and the audience; A Photograph is Worth a Thousand Questions, photography and the burden of tradition; pictorialism; moving to New York; Artforum; October; New York music scene; Captain Beefheart; Bo Diddley; Little Richard; Steichen and aerial photography; origins of October; New Criterion; Art Critic's Grant; teaching at Ohio State; television; technological historians; New York subway and getting a ticket for using French money; RISD lectures; Long Beach; photography; collages; Metro Pictures; New Topographics; School as a Factory; moral choice and the viewer; work method and the audience; Social Criticism and Art Practice; east and west coasts; Ed Ruscha; documentary; film, Los Angeles; cinema and social history; Ohio State Department of Photography and Cinema; Los Angeles Plays Itself; Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; Ohio State campus, anti-Semitism; Ronald Reagan and protest; influences and colleagues; intellectual genealogy; Michael Graves and Ohio State architecture; Bad Ohio; tenure; University Exposed; AIDS issue of October; The Body and the Archive; making film; Korean War; collectors and images. Sekula also recalls Eleanor Antin, Jeff Wall, Terry Fox, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Paul Saltman, Marcuse, Baldessari, Sacvan Bercovitch, Stanley Miller, Jef Raskin, Paul Brach, David Antin, Howard Fried, Peter Van Riper, Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, Manny Farber, Ihab Hassan, Diane Wakoski, Jackson Mac Low, Martha Rosler, Lenny Neufeld, Joshua Neufeld, David Wing, Brian Connell, Max Kozloff, Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, Carole Conde, Karl Beveridge, Barry Rosens, Tom Crow, John Copeland, Harry Lunn, Hilton Kramer, Grace Mayer, Carol Duncan, Eva Cockroft, Richard Pommer, Rosalind Krauss, Sally Stein, Paddy Chayefsky, John Hanhardt, Mel Ramsden, Sarah Charlesworth, Jospeh Kosuth, Baruch Kirschenbaum, Robert Heinecken, Brian O'Doherty, Howard Becker, Jay Ruby, Jerry Liebling, Anna Wilkie, Ronald Feldman, John Gibson, David Ross, Britt Salvesen, Larry Sultan, Mike Mandel, Roy Ascott, Ilene Segalove, Paul Schimmel, DeeDee Halleck, Noel Burch, Joan Braderman, Woody Hayes, Thom Andersen, John Quigley, Ron Green, Kasper Koenig, Dan Graham, Jonathan Green, Christa Wolf, Catherine Lord, Ben Lifson, and Annette Michelson.
Biographical / Historical:
Allan Sekula (1951-2013) was a photographer, filmmaker, and writer, based at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Mary Panzer (1955- ) is a historian from New York, New York.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
The Wallace Berman papers date from 1907 to 1979 (bulk 1955-1979). The collection measures 5 linear feet and presents a cursory overview of Berman's career as an assemblage artist and poet. The collection contains business correspondence, letters from other artists and writers of the Beat movement, writings by others, scattered artwork by Berman, photographs by Robert F. Heinecken, and sound recordings of poetry readings.
Scope and Content Note:
The Wallace Berman papers, 1907-1979 (bulk 1955-1979), measure 5 linear feet and present a cursory overview of Berman's career as an assemblage artist and poet. The collection is valuable not only for its documentation of the work of Wallace Berman, but for its documentation of the California beat movement of the late 1950s through the early 1970s.
Found are numerous letters, writings, poems, and other published material which portray the thoughts, attitudes, and trends popular in a prominent underground culture which eventually led to radical changes in America and American art. The collection contains business correspondence, letters from other artists and writers of the beat movement, writings by others, scattered artwork by Berman, and photographs by Robert F. Heinecken. In addition, the collection contains files for Berman's mail art publications Semina and S.M.S. Also of note is the large volume of printed material (2.7 feet), much of it in the form of books and other published material. Sound recordings include poets Michael McClure, Kenneth Patchen, David Melzer, and another unidentified writer performing their work.
The collection is arranged into nine series which generally reflect material type.
With the exception of the letters in Series 1, each series is arranged chronologically. The original arrangement of the letters has been maintained, with a chronological arrangement of miscellaneous business letters and an alphabetical arrangement of the letters from Berman's more prominent colleagues.
Series 1: Letters, 1957-1979, undated (box 1, 0.5 linear feet)
Series 2: Notes from Interview, 1967 (box 1, 1 folder)
Series 3: Writings by Others, 1972, undated (box 1, 6 folders)
Series 4: Artwork, 1956-1976 (box 1, 4 folders)
Series 5: Semina, 1955-1967 (boxes 1-2, 26 folders)
Series 6: S. M. S., 1968 (box 2, 1 folders)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1907-1976 (boxes 2-5, 2.7 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographs, 1956-1976 (box 5, 6 folders)
Series 9: Sound Recordings, 1962-1965 (box 5, 6 folders)
Wallace Berman was born in 1926 in Staten Island, New York. In the 1930s, his family moved to the Jewish district in Los Angeles. After being expelled from high school for gambling in the early 1940s, Berman immersed himself in the growing West Coast jazz scene. During this period, he briefly attended the Jepson Art School and Chouinard Art School, but departed when he found the training too academic for his needs.
In 1949, while working in a factory finishing antique furniture, he began to make sculptures from unused scraps and reject materials. By the early 1950s, Berman had become a full-time artist and an active figure in the beat community in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many art historians consider him to be the "father" of the California assemblage movement. Moving between the two cities, Berman devoted himself to his mail art publication Semina, which contained a sampling of beat poetry and images selected by Berman.
In 1963, permanently settled in Topanga Canyon in the Los Angeles area, Berman began work on verifax collages (printed images, often from magazines and newspapers, mounted in collage fashion onto a flat surface, sometimes with solid bright areas of acrylic paint). He continued creating these works, as well as rock assemblages, until his death in 1976.
The Wallace Berman papers were donated by Tosh Berman, Wallace Berman's son, in 1992.
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy. Use of audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The papers of Los Angeles photo and video artist Eileen Cowin measure 20.1 linear feet and 29.56 GB and date from circa 1900 to 2020. The papers include biographical materials consisting of school records, identification cards, an interview transcript, and other personal files; personal and professional correspondence; writings for essays, video art pieces, panels, and lectures; teaching files; project files containing grant and fellowship records, files for Cowin's Los Angeles Metro Public Art Project, and other commission files; exhibition files documenting Cowin's group and solo exhibitions including Still (and all): Eileen Cowin, 1971-1998, a retrospective of Cowin's work; printed material; video artwork including laserdiscs of ...and Their Daughter Married a Prince, "Speaking Woman," and "Scarcely Had They Uttered," as well as sketches and and etching of family; photographic material of Cowin, family, friends and colleagues, proofs and prints of works; and personal business records consisting of artwork donation records, business records with galleries, and insurance and inventory lists.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of Los Angeles photo and video artist Eileen Cowin measure 20.1 linear feet and 29.56 GB and date from circa 1900 to 2020. The papers include biographical materials, correspondence, writings, teaching files, project files, exhibition files, printed and digital material, artwork and sketchbooks, sound and video recordings, and photographic material.
Biographical material consists of diplomas, passports, rolodexes, faculty identification cards, legal papers, interview transcripts, and miscellaneous documents in hard copy and digital formats.
Personal and professional correspondence is with family, friends, artists, collectors, gallery owners, museums, and universities. Notable correspondents include Carl Chiarenza, Darryl Curran, Maria Gonzalez, Robert Heinecken, Ellen Korsower, William Larson, and Aaron Siskind.
Writings include notebooks, annotated appointment calendars and wall calendars, lectures, essays, drafts and notes, artists statements, guest registers, and some writings by others. A few lectures and one essay are on sound and digital video recordings.
Teaching files are mostly related to material from California State University, Fullerton. There are a few documents from Franconia College and other universities where Eileen Cowin taught workshops or had faculty appointments. The files include student evaluations, promotion notifications, and limited correspondence.
Project files include professional files, such as grant applications, artist residencies, and symposiums. Also found are art project proposals, publication agreements for art projects, and commissions,. Files contain correspondence, printed and digital material, application forms, research notes, and photographic material.
Exhibition files include announcements, catalogs, reviews, correspondence, price lists of artwork, and assorted material for Eileen Cowin's group and solo shows.
Printed material consists primarily of clippings, exhibition catalogs, announcements, books, periodicals, and clippings.
Artwork includes 26 videocassettes of Cowin's artwork, 1 sketchbook, drawings, 4 digital audio recordings, and a few college art projects.
Photographic material includes press prints, digital photographs, proofs, contact sheets, slides, negatives, transparencies, and test shots. There are photographs of installations and artwork as well as images for exhibition mock-ups. There are also batches of "research photographs" which were used for reference. Also included are portraits and snapshots of Cowin, photographs of Cowin with friends and colleagues, and photographs of family.
Personal business records consisting of equipment lists for insurance, gallery files, addresses and contacts, and artwork donation files.
The collection is arranged as 10 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1927-2015 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 1, 24, ER01; 0.016 GB)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1969-2018 (3.9 linear feet; Boxes 1-4, 24, 28, ER02-ER03; 0.199 GB)
Series 3: Writings, 1963-2014 (2.4 linear feet; Boxes 4-6, 24-25, ER04-ER06; 11.88 GB)
Series 4: Teaching Files, 1974-2008 (0.3 linear feet, Boxes 6, 25, ER07; 0.171 GB)
Series 5: Project Files, 1979-2019 (1.5 linear feet; Boxes 6-7, 25-26, OV 30, ER08; 9.35 GB)
Series 6: Exhibition Files, 1979-2012 (1.5 linear feet; Boxes 7-8, 26, ER09; 0.001 GB)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1966-2014 (2.6 linear feet; Boxes 8-10, 17, 26, OV 20, ER10; 0.011 GB)
Series 8: Artwork and Sketchbooks, 1964-2014 (3.2 linear feet; Boxes 10-13, 17, 26, 28, ER11; 0.076 GB)
Series 9: Photographic Material, circa 1900-2020 (3.2 linear feet; Boxes 13-16, 18-19, 26-28, OVs 21, 31-32, ER12-ER13; 7.86 GB)
Series 10: Personal Business Records, 1972-2017 (0.6 linear feet; Boxes 27-28)
Biographical / Historical:
Eileen Cowin (1947-) is a photographer and video artist who lives in Los Angeles, California.
Eileen Cowin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1947. She graduated from the State University of New York, New Paltz in 1968 and received her master's degree in photography from the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago in 1970. At IIT, she studied with Aaron Siskind and Arthur Siegel.
Cowin was involved in the L.A. experimental photography scene that began in the mid-1970s led by Robert Heinecken and Darryl Curran. In the early 1980s, Cowin gained initial prominence with staged photographs of family and friends in various roles, work in keeping with The Pictures Generation emerging at the same time on the East Coast.
From 1971-1975, Cowin taught photography at Franconia College in New Hampshire, and later became a professor at California State University, Fullerton, where she continued to teach until retiring in 2008.
Cowin's artwork has been featured in over 40 solo exhibitions and over 165 group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. She has received numerous awards for her art and worked on many public art projects.
The Eileen Cowin papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Eileen Cowin in 2015 and 2021.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
One box of correspondence with Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich and one box of correspondence with Robert Fichter are ACCESS RESTRICTED; use requires written permission.
The records of San Francisco Focus Gallery measure 11.8 linear feet and date from 1963-1987. The bulk of the collection consists of exhibition files. There are also artists files, sales information, correspondence, and scattered records of the gallery's companion bookshop.
Scope and Contents:
The records of San Francisco's Focus Gallery measure 11.8 linear feet and date from 1963-1987. The bulk of the collection consists of exhibition files. There are also artists files, sales information, correspondence, and scattered records of the gallery's companion bookshop.
Exhibition files comprise the bulk of the collection and generally contain a wide range of materials including correspondence, short biographies, forms requesting artists' background information, flyers, booklets, brochures, checklists, loan agreements, sales records, news releases, and photographs and negatives. Among the many photographers exhibited were Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Bill Brandt, Wynn Bullock, Paul Caponigro, Imogen Cunningham, Judy Dater, Robert Heinecken, Eikoh Hosoe, Annie Leibovitz, Eliot Porter, Aaron Siskind, Jerry Uelsmann, and Brett Weston.
A relatively small amount of general business correspondence includes orders and payments for photographic prints, books, and magazine subscriptions, some personal notes, and requests for information about how to submit for exhibitions and for exhibition schedules. Correspondents include customers, photographers, publishers, law firms, museum, and colleges and universities. Correspondence from the founding year contains Johnston's letters to various venues prominent in art photography, such as George Eastman House. There is also a letter to Ansel Adams requesting prints to sell or for a small opening exhibit.
Additional records include artists' files; sales and inventory records containing print and bookshop inventories, general pricing information and receipts for photographs; and printed materials including flyers and brochures, bookshop catalogs and news releases. There are also scattered administrative records, including gallery history, a file on the Toren Gallery and five owner's notebooks, as well as The Imogen Cunningham Trust files documenting Focus Gallery's interactions with the trust before and after Cunningham's death regarding photographs printed and signed by her; financial and legal files; and guest books.
Documents in the collection that pre-date the founding of the gallery are found in the Toren Gallery file and a few of the exhibition files.
The collection is arranged as 8 series.
Series 1: Administrative Records, 1963-1985 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1966-1987 (Boxes 1-2; 1 linear foot)
Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1966-1985 (Boxes 2-10; 8.5 linear feet)
Series 4: Artists Files, 1966-1978 (Boxes 10-11; 0 .5 linear feet)
Series 5: Financial and Legal Files, 1966-1987 (Box 11; 0 .2 linear feet)
Series 6: Sales and Inventories, 1966-1987 (Box 11; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Materials, 1966-1987 (Boxes 11-12; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 8: Guest Books, 1966-1970, 1978-1985 (Boxes 12-13; 0.6 linear feet)
Biographical / Historical:
Focus Gallery was founded by Helen Head Johnson (1916-1989) in 1966 on Union Street in San Francisco. The gallery exhibited and sold primarily art photographs and other contemporary art.
Helen Head Johnston believed that photography deserved its own exhibition space. As stated in the gallery's first press release, "in seeking to encourage print collecting it (the gallery) offers not only a show place but also a market place for photographers." While retaining an emphasis on Bay Area photographers, the gallery's exhibitions soon became international in scope, featuring little known and well-established photographers through both solo and group exhibitions. With few exceptions, the gallery's policy was to feature an artist only once. To help keep the gallery going in its early days, Johnston started a bookshop mail-order business. At the time of its closing in August 1985, Focus Gallery was the longest continuously operating photography gallery in the country. The bookshop continued in another location for an additional two years.
The collection is arranged as 8 series
Series 1: Administrative records, 1963-1985, (Box 1 8 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1966-1987, undated (Box 1-2 1 linear foot)
Series 3: Exhibition files, 1966-1985 (Box 2-10 8.5 linear feet)
Series 4: Artists files, 1966-1978, undated (Box 10-11, 9 folders)
Series 5: Financial and Legal files, 1966-1987 (Box 11 6 folders)
Series 6: Sales and Inventories, 1966-1987, undated (Box 11 11 folders)
Series 7: Printed Materials, 1966-1987, undated (Box 11 and Hol 12 7 folders)
Series 8: Guest Books, 1966-1985 (Hol 12-13 6 folders)
Among the holding of the Archives of American Art is an untranscribed interview of Helen Johnston by Louise Katzman or Irene Borger in the collection Interviews of California Photographers 1981 Jun.-Nov.20.
Helen Johnston left her private photography collection to the de Saisset Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The Focus Gallery records were donated by the estate of owner Helen Johnston, care of Gerald O'Conner, executor.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Over 600 subject files containing Mann's research on the history of photography; and an extensive interview conducted by Mann with Imogen Cunningham.
REELS 1860-1872: 630 files cover photographers, photo exhibitions, societies, publications, and collections and contain biographical information, correspondence, published and unpublished transcripts by Mann, exhibition catalogs and announcements, price lists, photographs, organization records, clippings and printed material along with Mann's interviews of Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham (partial), and Edward Ruscha. Photographs are by Linda Connor, Imogen Cunningham (includes one of dancer Martha Graham), Judy Dater (of Cunningham), Robert Heinecken, Anne Noggle, Leland Rice, Charles Swedlund, Arthur Tress, Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, Jack Welpott, and Brett Weston.
REEL 5051 (fr. 390-600): Interview (232 p. transcript from 3 sound reels, 3 in.) of Imogen Cunningham conducted by Mann, 1960-1973, in preparation for her book, Imogen Cunningham: Photographs. Cunningham speaks of the sale and exhibition of her prints; being a "darkroom slave"; portrait photography; photographs as documents; the "soft-focus era"; teaching; and the f/64 Group. Cunningham comments on 104 of her photographs, including her portraits of Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather, Martha Graham, Cary Grant, Alfred Stieglitz, Upton Sinclair, Adedee Ozenfant, Frieda Kahlo Rivera, Getrude Stein, Shen Yao, Lyonel Feininger, Morris Graves, Anna Freud, and Minor White. She recalls Diane Arbus, Arthur Fellig, Paul Strand, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Photographer, photography historian and critic; Davis, Calif.
Files of Margery Mann, 1919-1977, are also located at the National Gallery of Australia.
The Cunningham interview was donated by Mann in 1975; the remainder by Mann's husband, Thomas K. Vasey, 1978.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.