This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast features J. Paul Getty Museum curator Paul Martineau discussing his major new retrospective of Minor White. Titled "Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit," it’s on view through October 19. The exhibition is the first White retrospective in 25 years.
Martineau’s exhibition includes the first-ever presentation of one of the major achievements in American photography — and one of the first major works of American art to address same-sex desire, White’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors” (1947-48). Martineau and MAN Podcast host Tyler Green discuss the series on this week’s show, and Martineau explains more in his excellent catalogue essay:
"White produced three sequences expressing his love and sexual feelings for men. Intent on using the camera as a tool for self-discovery, White believed that all of his pictures were mirrors of himself: hence the unusual title of the first sequence, "The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors." The sequence comprises thirty-two photographs of White’s student Tom Murphy. Photographs of Murphy’s hands and feet are interspersed within the larger group of portraits and nude figure studies, which draw on the history of art, both religious and secular, from the dead body of Christ to ancient Greek sculpture….
White mounted and bound the photographs of Murphy in a small artist’s book. To page through it, with its alternating rhythms of stillness and movement, is to take a pilgrimage of sorts through White’s various mental and emotional states, from anguish to ecstasy. Until now, “The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors” has never been exhibited or published in full; White kept it private, giving the only other copy to Murphy. In the late 1940s it was illegal to exhibt or publish full-frontal male nudes, and any man who did so would effectively have outed himself as a homosexual. The consequences for White would certainly have included losing his job as a teacher, his main source of income.”
The Getty itself published the outstanding catalogue for Martineau’s exhibition. Amazon offers it for under $30.
Titled Tom Murphy, San Francisco (1947), this is the twenty-first picture in “The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors.” Check back to MANPodcast.com throughout the day for more images from the portfolio. All images from the portfolio are in the Minor White Archive at the Princeton University Art Museum.
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