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Ernst Haas
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19/1/2012

Ernst Haas

Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich

Color Correction. This exhibition spotlights a body of work that poignantly describes the complex ways in which an artist's 'career' took form. Uncovering a new side to a much- celebrated body of work, the show will include fifteen new and mostly never before seen large format works, alongside a handpicked selection of rare, vintage dye-transfer prints from the 1950s and '60s.


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"Bored with obvious reality, I find my fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view. Without touching my subject I want to come to the moment when, through pure concentration of seeing, the composed picture becomes more made than taken. Without a descriptive caption to justify its existence, it will speak for itself – less descriptive, more creative; less informative, more suggestive – less prose, more poetry." (Ernst Haas from 'About Color Photography', in DU, 1961)

Christophe Guye Galerie is proud to present "Color Correction": by one of the most important and influential artists in the development of colour photography and the history of the medium on a whole, this exhibition spotlights a body of work that poignantly describes the complex ways in which an artist's 'career' took form. Ernst Haas belonged to the best known, most productive and widely published photographers of the twentieth century. Most commonly associated with vibrant colour photography, Haas was famed for his commercial work. It is undoubtedly however his other, private work that really illuminates the power of his sensibility and his true mastery. Unfortunately this side of his creative output has been kept private and thus escaped posthumous appreciation. It is only now, with the efforts and belief in Haas' ability of a few, such as William Ewing, former Director of the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, that this body of work is finally revealed and justly let's this artist's aptitude shine. The exhibition "Color Correction", and Ewing's corresponding book published by Steidl, uncovers, with an exciting and novel view, the "other" side of Ernst Haas' visionary.

The Christophe Guye Galerie is exclusively representing the Ernst Haas Estate in Switzerland and is proud to present the first exhibition ever in Switzerland devoted to the photography of Ernst Haas. Furthermore, "Color Correction" is the first exhibition in Switzerland to present the to-date little known, non-commission work by the late Austrian-born photographer. Uncovering a new side to a much- celebrated body of work, the show will include fifteen new and mostly never before seen large format works, alongside a handpicked selection of rare, vintage dye-transfer prints from the 1950s and '60s. These astoundingly complex and ultimately enveloping pieces form a group exhibited under the title "Colour Correction" to coincide with the recent Steidl publication "Color Correction", by William Ewing. "These images are of great sophistication, and rival (and sometimes surpass) the best of his colleagues", says Ewing, revealing works "far more edgy, loose, enigmatic, and ambiguous than his celebrated work"1.

"Color Correction" is a term used in printing, through which the inked proofs are brought into as close equivalence as possible with the original photograph. Ewing has chosen to use the term metaphorically, to suggest "we owe it to Ernst Haas and our understanding of the history of colour photography, to re- evaluate his importance in light of this marvellous imagery, kept under wraps for so many years."2 It was in 1962 that the first ever colour photography exhibition, "Ernst Haas Color Photography", was held at the prestigious MoMA in New York, and not until fourteen years later would colour photography be given another show at the museum with "Color Photography by William Eggleston". Though introducing Haas' work to a large audience and a major milestone in the history of the medium it would not come to have the same effect on the development of the artist's career. On the contrary: an exhibition planned by Edward Steichen, renowned photographer and curator of MoMA at the time, it was in the end his predecessor John Szakowski who would actually see it realised. With this shift in curatorial visionary, Szakowski would enforce a different taste. Having the duty to complete Steichen's idea, but keen to champion his own and dissimilar ideas, Szakowski's enthusiasm regarding the artist and the exhibition "Ernst Haas Color Photography" was meek, the praise in his accompanying texts all but faint. Steichen, once in favour of pictorialism, thus a subjective photography, valued Haas' profound use of the camera, while Szakowski on the other hand chose to favour a less embellished sentiment; a more hard- edge modernist inspired American approach. It was this disregard and clashing of personal agendas that would ultimately and erroneously see Haas excluded from the canon of colour photography; his indisputable talent became the victim of the cyclical debate of what art photography should be.

Making his first colour photographs in 1949, Haas was a member of the prestigious Magnum agency. Known mainly for his commissioned work, whereby he created influential imagery such as iconic Marlboro Man advertisements long before other artists were commissioned to do so, Haas' work would come to have great influence on later artists, such as Richard Prince, Marc Quinn or Robert Longo. Using colour also for his personal work, with a pictorial language recalling at times the works by painter Edward Hopper, Haas has been described as a poet photographer. By no means the first to use the medium in colour, he was said to be "the first to do it masterfully".3 Visionary, Haas early on cropped and abstracted, photographing against the light and out of focus, using reflections, close-up to mystify the visible, abstraction of colour and texture. Interested in the everyday, his photographs remind of the likes of Lee Friedlander or Stephan Shore, but rather than documents his works are "vignettes of personal experience".4 The works on display in "Color Correction" reveal this more abstract side of the artist's oeuvre.

Haas' work never received the recognition it deserved. The works presented at Christophe Guye Galerie are based upon this dispute, attempting to reveal the true ability of Haas' work and restore his rightful place in the medium's canon. Haas' formal language echoes decades past while being extremely contemporary at once. Often shooting inches away from the subject at acute and unexpected angles, Haas work was visionary. Lyrical, evocative, and expressive, while at the same time exact, the artist moved away from obvious reality, finding fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view. The works on view are to be understood not as informative but as creative; description gives way to suggestion. "Color Correction" – the exhibition as well as the book – show works that are rich, vibrant, and intelligent alike. With this new view on the body of work of one of the medium's most important advocates, "Color Correction" hopes to evoke the excitement Steichen expressed when he first came across Haas imaginarium of seeing: "In my estimation we have experienced an epoch in photography. Here is a free spirit, untrammelled by tradition and theory, who has gone out and found beauty unparalleled in photography."5

Ernst Haas was born on March 2nd 1921 in Vienna, Austria, second son of Ernst Haas, a high official in the Austrian government, and, Frederika, who continued to encourage him from early childhood to pursue his creative endeavours. 1946 Haas acquired his first camera, a Rolleiflex, on the black market in exchange for 10 kilograms of margarine received for his 25th birthday. Less than ten years later – and then still fairly new to the profession – Haas was selected to be included in the until today epical exhibition "Family of Man". Considered the pinnacle of his career, Edward Steichen embraced an accessible and even nostalgic style of photography: the tour of "Family of Man" lasted five years, ending in 1961, a year before Ernst Haas Color Photography opened at MoMA. Haas worked with magazines such as DU, Heute and later publishing major photographic essays in LIFE – for which in 1953 Haas published the first ever colour photo essay in the history of the magazine, Images of a Magic City – while developing close associations with Werner Bischof, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Capa. The latter encouraging him to pursue his own vision, Haas begins shooting with a Leica, and experimenting with the first colour films in 1949. 1959 he was elected president of Magnum, while publishing many books ("Creation" still has – until today – the distinction of being one of the most popular photography books ever published) and receiving numerous awards during his lifetime, such as the Hasselblad Foundation International Award and the Goldenes Verdienstkreuz des Landes Wien, both in 1986 shortly before his death. His entire archive is sent to London in 1998 to be housed at the Hulton Getty Picture Library; insight into the true depth of his oeuvre is for the first time shown publicly only recently, at the 41st international photo festival Rencontres d'Arles, in France.

1 Prodger, Philip, William Ewing. (2011) Ernst Haas: "Color Correction". Göttingen (Germany): Steidl. Foreword.

2 Prodger, Philip, William Ewing. (2011) Ernst Haas: "Color Correction". Göttingen (Germany): Steidl. Foreword.

3 Inge Morath, as quoted in Mary Panzer, Inge Morath – First Colour, (Göttingen: Steidl, 2009), pg. 12, in: Prodger, Philip, William Ewing. (2011) Ernst Haas: "Color Correction". Göttingen: Steidl. 196.

4 Prodger, Philip, William Ewing. (2011) Ernst Haas: "Color Correction". Göttingen (Germany): Steidl. 2.

5 Edwadr Steichen, as quoted in Inge Bondi, "Biographical Essay", from: Prodger, Philip, William Ewing. (2011) Ernst Haas: "Color Correction". Göttingen: Steidl. 199

Image: Ernst Haas: California, USA 1976
C-print, later print, 101,6 x 76,2 cm, 40 x 30 in.
Courtesy of Ernst Haas and Christophe Guye Galerie

For further press inquiries, please contact Christophe Guye at guye@christopheguye.com, or Georgina Casparis at casparis@christopheguye.com, or at +41 44 252 01 11.

Opening: 19 January 2012 - 18:00

Christophe Guye Galerie
Dufourstrasse 31, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Opening hours: Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday 12 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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