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Harry Gruyaert: Between Worlds

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A bit later, Campany continues, “For Gruyaert, making threshold images means bringing together different light levels and different color temperatures.

The first ever book about Cuban record sleeve design, compiled by Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker, Cuba: Music and Revolution , when Cuba’s Special Period, brought about by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of Russia’s financial support for the Cuban government, led to the demise of vinyl-record manufacturing in Cuba. Hilariously funny, sometimes rather sad, but invariably interesting, this is a superbly diverting book. At the heart of Cezanne lies a sense of disquiet: a homelessness haunting the vividness, an anxiety underlying the appeal of colour.Meet Monsieur Benoit, who appeared suddenly in Paris with a scheme for telegraphing messages across the world (or, at least, across the room) by means of electricity and the telepathic power of snails, and actually raised the money to build this extraordinary machine. Prof David Alan Mellor investigates and explains the Anglo-American cultural contexts that drove Smith’s art, while Alex Massouras’s two themed essays, ‘Young and British’ and ‘From Motion Pictures to Flight’, explore Smith’s originality from fresh perspectives. His powers of persuasion clearly exceeded those of Colonel Baker, who seemed the personification of Victorian solidity until that embarrassing incident in the sealed railway compartment, where he failed to entice Miss Dickinson to join in his bit of fun, and afterwards had to try and explain his conduct to the High Court, with the whole nation hanging on his every word. If we lost touch with his sense of life, they thought, we lost an essential element in our self-understanding.

There is so much going on in all these images and the result is not confusion as much as a nuanced and sophisticated complexity. One of the things that’s fascinating about this collection is the way every image has multiple narrative lines. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the new government closed American-owned nightclubs and consolidated the island’s recording industry under a state-run monopoly.

A simpler image from Gao, Mali, in 1988 simply shows a vacant room, a glassless window, some fabric blowing in what is perhaps a breeze, a vacant red chair, and through the window opening people walking on a dirt street. Another image from is from Madrid in 1993 and appears to be taken outside a subway car, through a sheet of glass to a man and a woman sitting inside the car. Clark addresses this strangeness head-on, examining the art of Pissarro, Matisse and others in relation to it. And after the initial joy of growing comfortable with many layers of content, the question becomes: What is the relationship of all these layers to each other and then to us? Richard Glyn Jones has cast his net wide to gather these accounts of human oddity and eccentricity, and the standard of his writing is high, with Lytton Strachey, Derek Hudson, Christopher Sykes and Ronald Knox among the authors included.

Renato Cisneros digs into his own family history to understand and demystify the figure of ‘El Gaucho’: the controversial Secretary during the regime of Francisco Morales Bermúdez and, shortly after, the country’s Minister of War. It is impossible, looking at this picture, to confidently place where everything in the image is in relationship to each other. A Traveller’s History of Cyprus” offers a complete and authoritative history of the island’s past and also touches on the sensitive present-day issues for both sides of the island. The artwork here reflects both the cultural and musical depth of Cuba as well as the political influence of revolutionary communism. In his new book Between Worlds, the artist assembles his archives to deliver the essence of his visual writing: a luminous alchemy at the service of immersion in the image.

A Magnum photographer and renowned colorist, Harry Gruyaert has been traveling the world for over forty years. That he latterly slipped under the radar to some extent is partly explained by his detachment from the mainstream as well as by his frequent switching of studios between England and the USA, although this helped charge his creative batteries. Since the 1940s a steady stream of Cuban musicians has also made the migration to the US, sparking changes in North American musical forms: bandleader Machito set New York’s jazz and Latin scene on fire, and master drummer Chano Pozo’s entry into Dizzy Gillespie’s group led to the birth of Latin jazz, to name just two. A good photo is a photo that says a lot of things about the place and the moment it was taken,” says Gruyaert. As Barbara Rose said of Smith’s major Tate Gallery retrospective in 1975, he was ‘at once in and out of touch with the currents of the mainstream … au courant and aloof at the same time.

There are at least six different levels of content within this image, each one with its own contextual and narrative interest. He has had the good fortune to travel widely, and whether he’s taking images in Belgium or Morocco, London or Paris, airports or alleys, it’s not that he sees things differently. Richard Smith (1931-2016) was one of the most original painters of his generation, and one of the most underrated. There is the story from the observer, the story from the two inside the car (the looks on their faces speak volumes), the story from the four the far distance. Over the past century, Cuban music has produced a seemingly endless variety of styles―rumba, mambo, son, salsa―at a dizzyingly fast rate.

Between them is another window looking to a subway platform on the far side where two nuns talk to a woman and a young boy. No matter the setting, the country or the era, Gruyaert deploys a luminous alchemy suspended in time. Tipping over into photography, dissolving the boundaries between exterior and interior spaces, closed world or open world, forgetting oneself in a suspended time.

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