“The crowd is his domain, just as the air is the bird’s, and water that of the fish. His passion and his profession is to merge with the crowd.”
November 4, 2009 7:41 PM   Subscribe

The 65-Year-Old Virgin: Robert Bergman’s photographs, finally revealed. "The last time Robert Bergman had a gallery show, it was 1964, and he was 20 years old. The college dropout and his best friend, Danny Seymour, took their earliest photographs, produced in a 'lint-filled darkroom'—a.k.a. his mother’s laundry room—to a 'rinky-dink bookstore' in Minneapolis’s run-down West Bank. 'Me and Danny just threw some pictures up on the wall,' he says. 'You couldn’t even call that a show.' Bergman is 65 now, and making a real debut in not one but three venues, at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center; Chelsea’s Yossi Milo Gallery; and, extraordinarily, the National Gallery of Art. (This is the National Gallery’s first artist’s debut show ever.)" An interview with Robert Bergman, and a slideshow of some of his work.
posted by ocherdraco (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Hoosier Prospector at 8:23 PM on November 4, 2009

I like them, anyway.

His photos have a painterly quality to them. They're very rich. I also appreciate this which this exchange from the interview captures better than I can describe:

Bergman: Yeah. The old lady’s solitude. Because the escape from that dialogue, usually in our culture, is sentimentalizing.

Rail: Or objectifying.

Bergman: Or objectifying. Denying emotion. Or indulging in false emotions which is really just your fantasy reflecting back.

posted by louche mustachio at 10:48 PM on November 4, 2009

I think he, and they, are fantastic. Thank you.
posted by dual_action at 10:59 PM on November 4, 2009

Huh. I wonder what Bergman thinks of the headline of the New York Magazine piece? To me it sort of pushes the idea of him as a naif or completely undiscovered eccentric, but reading the Rail interview, it's obvious that this is not the case... The National Gallery show, after all, came about after 14 years - so he was actually around 50 when they began showing significant interest in acquiring his work and planning a show - at a time, as he points out in the interview, when they had shown only one living photographer (Robert Frank). And he had other important supporters. So, it seems like, if anything, the greater art world itself has been naive or out-of-the-loop in this respect, and he was just "bloodyminded" (in a good way) about his own artistic vision, but not at all "creating in a void," unsophisticated about the scene, or in any way especially "virginal" as an artist.

Thanks for posting, ocherdraco; I wish I could see one of these exhibits.
posted by taz at 11:49 PM on November 4, 2009

From the slideshow (last link), my favorite is number 8. The body seems so lost, even with the head cropped from view. The people look angular in the shots, and some almost have an oil painting look to them.
posted by shinyshiny at 12:16 AM on November 5, 2009

Really nice. The portraits are very American to me, but in an unexpected way.
posted by afu at 12:36 AM on November 5, 2009

I really like this work. He has a really keen sense of what the light is doing, and obviously knows how to gain the trust of his subjects.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:53 AM on November 5, 2009

Thank you for posting
posted by michswiss at 3:51 AM on November 5, 2009

Came to snark, but the guy's got chops. Very, very fine stuff, and a nice post.

Rinky-dink bookstore? Would that be Savran's, or some other forgotten one? West Bank in the 60s is a bit before my time.
posted by gimonca at 6:32 AM on November 5, 2009

These are really wonderful. Thanks!
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:09 AM on November 5, 2009

Very cool. I thought this bit was interesting, though:
“MoMA said exactly what I thought they’d say: ‘This is moving and strong, but we’re interested in work that explores the medium formally,’”
That translates to me as "not enough wankery". Hope they're regretting it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:33 AM on November 5, 2009

Thanks for this! I'm totally going to the National Gallery this weekend to check this out.
posted by bluefly at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2009

I glanced at this post but didn't explore until today I heard something about him on NPR and said to myself, "Self, holy crap that's the guy from the blue." Just finished exploring. I like. A lot. Thank you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:29 PM on November 11, 2009

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