Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words
November 15, 2016 – March 18, 2017
Opening: Nov 15, 2016
Lecture: Building a History of Photography: Clarence John Laughlin’s Collection
Russell Lord, Curator of Photographs, New Orleans Museum of Art
Feb 8, 6pm
Film screening: Clarence John Laughlin documentary double feature
Featuring The Phantasmagorical Clarence John Laughlin and Clarence John Laughlin: An Artist with a Camera and Q&A sessions with the filmmakers
Saturday, Mar 4, 9:30am – 3:30pm
Admission is free. Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 523-4662
A Louisiana native, Clarence John Laughlin (1905 – 1985) began his career as photographer in the 1930s, eventually emerging as one of America’s pioneers in surrealist and experimental photography. Though he felt himself isolated from the mainstream art world, his exhaustive written records and remarkable collection of images, amassed over 50 years, prove otherwise: Laughlin corresponded extensively and often traded photographs with his artistic peers. The exhibition Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words, opening November 15, 2016, displays the enigmatic photographer’s letters to and from fellow artists, writers, editors, and curators alongside the prints he exchanged with his photographer contemporaries.
The image exchanges reveal both what Laughlin admired in the work of his peers and the interest that other important 20th-century photographers took in his work. The letters – which range from cordial to contentious – underscore Laughlin’s deliberate and uncompromising approach to his photography and prose. Much of the correspondence on display reveals both sides of each conversation: the letters Laughlin received are paired with his own carbon copies of those he sent.
Most of the items featured in the exhibition are drawn from the Clarence John Laughlin Archive, housed at THNOC since 1981. Selections from Laughlin’s personal collection of works by other photographers, now held by the New Orleans Museum of Art, will also be on view: photographers with whom Laughlin exchanged images include Imogen Cunningham, Wynn Bullock, Edward Weston, Carlotta Corpron, and Brassai. Individually, the images and letters offer glimpses into the minds of major figures in 20th-century photography. Together, they reveal Laughlin -who imagined himself working in artistic exile in New Orleans- to have been actively engaged (though not always in step) with national and international photographic trends throughout his life.
The free exhibition will occupy both the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art and the Boyd Cruise Gallery at the Williams Research Center, 400-410 Chartres Street. The galleries are open Tuesday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (excluding holidays), and the exhibition will remain on view until March 18, 2017.