PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Stopping and Taking a Moment: LUCIEN CLERGUE

A Talk with
Lucien Clergue
Moderated by Dan Leers
Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow 
in the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art

FIAF Gallery
22 East 60th Street
NY, NY

Clergue in America
FIAF Gallery
Curated by Anne Clergue, the artists daughter
November 10 – December 21, 2011

It’s not often you meet someone, who has paled around with Pablo Picasso…Jean Cocteau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcel Breuer, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen, and Robert Rauschenberg – to name just a few.

Clergue is French, from Arles.  He came to New York at the urging of Edward Steichen. 

Dear Lucien Clergue:
I am pleased to hear that there is at least a chance of your coming to New York when we will be showing your splendid photographs at this Museum.  I hope that you will be able to realise this, as your meeting the American photographers here and the American photographers meeting you as well as your work would be a fine step in the advancement of modern photography,with a decided mutual benefit to all concerned.
With all good wishes –
Sincerely yours,
Edward Steichen
Director of Photography
Moma

This letter is so straightforward and innocent.  It struck me that no gallery owner or curator would ever write a letter like this today.  It reminds us that art was once not big business, but an exchange of ideas among artists.

At 76, Clergue is spry and animated.  He talked about  his own work by telling stories.

What were your first impressions of NYC in 1961 or What was it about Point Lobos and the work of Edward Weston that captivated you?

 “I went to Caramel to see the atelier of Edward Weston and was blown away.  For the next 12 years, I stayed off and on with Ansel Adams photographing rocks and nudes”. 

Ansel said to me “I have been here for 40 years and I have never seen what you see.” 

Clergue: “ I am Mediterranean by birth.  What you see, I don’t see.  I look at the details.” 

This is how the evening went.

As we were leaving, my friend turned to me and said. “He is in amazing shape, must be all the red wine”.  “No” I said, “It’s photography.  It keeps you engaged with the world.”

An edition of the extended catalogue is available as an IPad app.

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