Born in Poland, Rose Mandel studied art in Paris, and child psychology with Jean Piaget in Switzerland. She fled Europe in 1942, arriving in Staten Island, New York after a perilous journey in steerage on a steamer carrying hundreds of émigrés, including the celebrated French artist Marcel Duchamp. Her country destroyed, family members and friends killed in the Holocaust, she made the San Francisco Bay Area her new home.
From 1946 to 1948, Mandel photographed reflections in store windows, and graffitied walls, of San Francisco. It is likely that Lisette Model, another immigrant using the camera, influenced Mandel; her own photomontage-like images of pedestrians and mannequins reflected in New York store windows were exhibited in 1946 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco. In 1948, the San Francisco Museum of Art (now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) gave Mandel her first one-person exhibition, On Walls and Behind Glass, comprised of Mandel’s sequence of photographs, incorporating such reflections and graffiti. Many years later Mandel acknowledged the surrealist elements of spatial ambiguity and discord in her photographs that expressed the devastation she still felt after the war and the Holocaust.
Later, landscapes made in and around the shoreline of the Berkeley Marina and San Francisco Bay became Mandel’s primary focus. Meditative images that merge water, shoreline, and expanses of sky in subtle gradations of tone from dark to light are mood-evoking, abstract arrangements of organic shapes, some capturing dramatic nocturnal skies through combinations of dense, advancing, and often surreal, clouds with moonlight. In 1960, The Museum of Modern Art, in New York, included six of Mandel’s landscapes in The Sense of Abstraction, a seminal international exhibition of contemporary trends in abstract photography.
From the mid-1960s through about 1972, Mandel moved away from the intimate contact-print format, realizing most of her large format images, including works she referred to as “writing-on-water” and other minimalist images, all of which Mandel considered deeply personal metaphors for inner feelings. Mandel’s last photographs were made between 1970 and 1972.
Deborah Bell Photographs
16 E 71st St #1D/4th Floor New York, NY 10021 USA
November 13, 2017 to January 13, 2018