Homage is the latest project of world-renowned photographer Greg Gorman and artist Gary Johns. Greg is known for his stark, honest portraiture of the most famous and infamous faces from the worlds of entertainment, art, sport and music. Gary’s successful career as an award-winning Creative and Art Director for advertising campaigns and films denotes his talent in crafting the visual narrative. Bringing together Greg’s ability to capture evocative portraits and Gary’s expertise led to this powerful collaboration. By combining their respective talents, they have created new and compelling work in Homage.
During the covid lockdown, when Gorman was unable to produce his classic fine art imagery, largely reliant on live models, he thought about trying his hand at something he always swore would never happen-shooting something that couldn’t talk back to him. More specifically, Greg decided to photograph pieces from his collection of African tribal art in the same manner in which he had shot his classic portraiture. Applying his skills as one of the premiere photographers of our generation, he was able to get inside the tribal heads to produce this stunning body of work with a different vision.
Not satisfied that these strong portraits were enough on their own to produce a solitary work, he turned to longtime friend and collaborator, conceptual artist, Gary Johns to enhance his endeavors. After lengthy discussions of how African tribal art has long been a major influencer of both European and American cultures, he asked Gary to have his hand at re-imagining the photographs Greg had created. Intrigued by Gorman’s imagery and with a very strong background in art history up to and including all the modern masters, Gary allowed his creative genius to bring an entirely new light to the works. The interplay or juxtaposition of Greg’s photographs and Gary’s personal imagery, which consisted primarily of photographs, illustrations, and paintings, coupled with his off-beat and sometimes irreverent imagination produced this body of work.
It’s no surprise that this departure exhibits the same power and force that Gorman’s imagery is well known for. Gorman and Johns have collaborated on most of Gorman’s twelve previous monographs. Their connection is readily visible in this powerful interplay between classic portrait photography and interpretive contemporary art. Shown for the very first time at Hohmann inc., this exhibition will premiere this summer with a major solo show at St. Petri Zu Lubeck, Germany for the artists.
Book sales, Limited Editions;
Greg Gorman: www.gormanphotography.com www.gormanworkshops.com
Gorman is represented worldwide by the Fahey Klein Gallery, LA [email protected]
Gary Johns: https://garyjohns.com
Lanza : What was your interest and how did you come to assemble the collection for HOMAGE?
Gorman : I began collecting indigenous art in the 1970’s in Paris, France from an ethnographic shop at Marche aux Puces. I was interested and fell in love with African masks and sculptures, especially of the human face and form. When I was in New York in the early eighties, I bought several pieces from the personal collection of_Ladislav Segy -a very well known and early collector of African Art on 57th street, that helped shape my keen interest.
The concept of photographing the sculptures for HOMAGE began in 2018, and in 2019, during Covid, I started shooting my collection-facing the fact that I always said I would never shoot anything that couldn’t talk back to me! When I started shooting these sculptures, I realized that I didn’t want to just shoot the sculptures and make the semblance of a catalog. I felt it needed more than just my eye. That is when I spoke with Gary Johns, whom I’d collaborated with on many projects. HOMAGE is our creative and artistic collaboration. I was a big fan of Gary’s and loved his work. I felt that if he took my photographic images of the sculptures and submerged them amidst his creative art, it might take them to a more interpretive level. That being said, the project got off to a great start.
In the course of producing the images I realized I didn’t have enough subjects for my book, so I turned to a gallery in Hamburg, Harry’s Hamburger Hafenbasar, where portions of the collection were for sale. This was a small gallery at the harbor in St. Pauli. I saw a sign at the desk saying some of the items might be for sale. Caroline Uhde had taken over the gallery after the owner had passed away, I contacted her to buy some pieces, she sent me twenty to twenty-five pieces at a time, I ended up buying a couple hundred. My collection is from all over Africa, primarily West Africa. The tribes used these for ceremonies, different rights, voodoo, fetish, and medicinal practices. There is a map that gives the placement in the book for each, some locations are undetermined.
Lanza : How did you work to create the photographs and develop the new works? Discuss the technical aspects and production?
Gorman with Johns : Initially, I had problems shooting them. I put the figures in a bowl of rice and placed them on a Lazy Susan–-a revolving stand. I thought to just simply shoot the objects with a lot of depth of field, but I realized I had to do more-exploring every angle until I felt I had captured their true persona. Each image was the result of somewhere between 15-25 exposures in which I shifted the focus points to achieve a totally sharp image. They were subsequently processed utilizing an aligning and blending technique.
Arriving at the final art was the beauty of this production; This was a three-way collaboration which involved my producing the photographs; Gary Johns, the creative director’s interpretation, and development of the final print artworks, which involved employing a variety of elements including degradation, scribbles, drawings, marks and “even debris that littered his studio floor” and Rick Allen, a research scientist, photography editor, photoshop Whiz, master retoucher and digital art consultant.
Lanza : Discuss the book production with the special edition, touring exhibition, and plans for Homage.
Gorman : I initially looked at the book project with another company but decided to go with the publisher Philo Fine Arts, Stiftung and Co., in Germany. This was the suggestion from curator, author and dear friend, Harald Falckenberg. Harald is an internationally known art collector and professor of art theory for the Academy of Art in Hamburg, Germany, where much of his personal collection is housed at Sammlung Falckenberg, his Modern Art Museum. Gary Johns and I oversaw the printing of the book with DZA Druckerei in Altenburg,Germany. The publication is a limited signed edition of 600 books, with a special edition limited to fifty monographs, inclusive of two signed limited edition fine art prints- one from each of the artists.
I reached out to the proper people to write and contribute to the publication, a Nigerian curator Azu Nwagbogu, Dr. Oluwatooyin Sogbesan, an art history and cultural historian, a well-known African American actor Djimon Honsou and the head curator for the African Art Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richard B. Woodward, to name a few. With the assistance of various scholars, historians and experts in their fields we have done our best to honor the indigenous and unnamed artists who produced these magnificent works.
The opening show was in Palm Desert at the Hohmann Gallery of Fine Art in January 2023.
HOMAGE will be going to the Church of St. Petri in Lübeck Germany, opening on the 22rd of July 2023_and running through August 2023.
Petriikirchhof, 4, 23552, Lubeck, Germany
This touring exhibition will be approximately one hundred prints, including many of the original African figures and traveling to other venues.