Ecce Homo: Behold the Contemporary Human Image

Laurie says:

I was contacted recently and told that that four of my photographs will be in the exhibition “Ecce Homo” at the National Museum of Art in Osaka. That’s the museum that had my solo show “Meditations on the Body” a while ago. The concept of the exhibition is fascinating and I’ll be excited to see the catalogue to see how it’s expressed.

My photo of Debbie Notkin and Tracy Blackstone is being featured in the publicity material of the show. They are going to send me the materials with my images, so I’ll be able to see them myself.


2884418Tracy Blackstone and Debbie Notkin

The show opens on January 16th and since I’ll be sent a catalogue I’ll really have a sense of the show. I’ll be writing more about the exhibition and my photos in relationship to the show as a whole as it comes closer.

From the museum materials:

The modern expression of the human form grew increasingly varied in the 19th century with the advent of photography and the rise of painters’ attempts to capture the inner life of their models. In the 20th century, artists imbued images of people with their own sense of introspection, resulting in a variety of new developments. In this exhibition, drawn primarily from the museum collection, we present over 100 works dealing with the human image from the late 20th century by approximately 50 artists, including everyone from Jean Fautrier and Jean Dubuffet to Yasumasa Morimura and the duo of Sun Yuan & Peng Yu.


nude from Women En LargeDebbie Notkin

…The Latin term ecce homo means “behold the man.” Derived from a scene in the New Testament, the words are directed at Jesus Christ, who is being tried for a crime. He is clad in a purple robe and a crown of thorns. After being whipped and covered with blood, his fate is in the hands of the ignorant masses. Concerned with Jesus’ ordeal (ultimately he is crucified), ecce homo scenes have frequently been depicted in art.

Depictions of human beings which contain not only a religious but also a moral lesson indicate an ideal human state. Such portrayals, including but not limited to ecce homo, have been repeated through the history of Western art. Or to be more precise, the awareness of how to depict human beings and capture their essence has been a central theme in art of every age and country. But today, after two world wars, there are virtually no human depictions that are directly linked to a moral message. At a time when so much uncertainty exists in regard to the ideal human form, contemporary artists are instead faced with the task of reexamining the fundamental human condition.


TRACYTracy Blackstone

The human image in contemporary art has arisen out of confrontations with a variety of social contradictions and irrational situations. In this exhibition, drawing primarily on the museum’s holdings and a number of masterpieces from other domestic collections, we trace developments in the depiction of human beings since World War II. Sometimes focusing on corpses and crime, other times on torn skin and the inner organs that are concealed underneath, and still other times on obscure apparitions without definite contours, contemporary human images do not permit easy empathy. Contemporary artists stop short of drawing morals and by simply apprehending an image (nothing more, nothing less), they embark on an inquiry into human existence. Behold the contemporary human image.

1. The Tragedy of Everyday Life
Depicting human beings in art became a serious problem in the wake of World War II. Our knowledge of war crimes and genocide made it necessary to search for new human images, including those related to crime, death, and other difficult realities. What does it mean when human beings are no longer able to return to concepts like reason, sympathy, and benevolence? In the first section, we search for possibilities in human depictions, which portray evil and death in a completely unaffected manner and avoid moralistic instruction.

2. The Reality of the Flesh
In the late 20th century, as the distinction between truth and fiction grew increasingly ambiguous, the notion of a self existing in the here and now lost all sense of reality. Perhaps one was not really connected to this world at all. A variety of approaches were taken to erase this anxiety and regain the reality of the flesh. In this section, we focus on artistic expressions that explore identity as a means of removing obstacles and confronting the empty self as it is. We also present works that deal with the subject of the skin, which gives form to the self, and the inner organs and body fluids that are concealed within it.

3. Portraits of Absence
In the contemporary era, it is difficult to grasp humans who attempt to depict (subjects), and those who are depicted (objects). In the late 20th century, many doubts arose regarding the relationship between subject and object. It was also an era in which many attempts were made to transcend such doubts. This took the form of presenting unfinished or fragmentary images, and encouraging the viewer to imagine a potential or ideal human form. In the final section, we introduce human depictions that function as a portent of a future beyond subject and object.


Baker Beach
Debbie Notkin, April Miller, Carol S, Queen T’hisha, Robyn Brooks

The museum exhibition has a lot of concepts that resonate for me and with the original inspirations for Women En Large.  I’ll wait for the catalogue to see the other photographs they’re showing, so that I have a better idea of the exhibition and what it is about.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say.