Icons & Idols: Jack Mitchell, A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960-1995
On October 21, 2005, University of Richmond Museums will open the exhibition Icons & Idols: Jack Mitchell, A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960-1995. For 35 years photographer Jack Mitchell (American, born 1925) documented the arts for publications as varied as Dance Magazine, Time, Vogue, and The New York Times. Organized by the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, this exhibition presents more than 130 influential twentieth-century art world luminaries such as Gloria Swanson, Truman Capote, Martha Graham, Andy Warhol, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. These masterfully printed selenium-toned, gelatin silver prints were completed during a thirty-five year period and represent the highlights of Mitchell's portrait work.
Mitchell's legendary photographs of great actors, artists, composers, performers, and writers of the late twentieth century document an American art scene that thrived in New York City. Working from his studio in Manhattanís Upper East Side, the photographer captured many cultural icons during the height of their fame, and others just before their big breaks. In the 1960s, his self-assigned goal of photographing the greatest painters and sculptors living in New York, among them Isamu Noguchi, Louise Nevelson, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol, and Claes Oldenburg, led to a 1974 retrospective exhibition at Bonino Gallery in New York City.
During the course of his career, Jack Mitchell photographed thousands of special assignments for The New York Times, Dance Magazine, After Dark, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, Life, Vogue, People, Harper's Bazaar, and countless others. His photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken weeks before Lennon's death, held the record of the best-selling cover for People for over 16 years. Mitchell had a longtime working relationship with The New York Times, and much of his innovative work appeared in the Arts & Leisure section. He retired in 1995 to New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Other icons of American culture featured in the exhibition include Alvin Ailey, Samuel Barber, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leonard Bernstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Isherwood, Philip Glass, Martha Graham, Jasper Johns, Jack Nicholson, Beverly Sills, Meryl Streep, Twyla Tharp, and many others.
Arts magazine described Mitchell's portraits as being "the first time a contemporary photographer has photographed artists as individuals possessing character and identification not expressed exclusively through their works. They are pictured as subjects themselves and not merely artifacts or of secondary importance to their art." It is an aspect of Mitchell's work that sets it apart from other photographers of cultural personalities.
Noted poet and critic John Yau, in an essay about the exhibition, said, "Mitchell's interest in high contrast, costumes, multiple exposures, and the choreographed moment immediately distinguishes his work from that of other well-known photographers. His blacks are dense and velvety, while his whites can be as sharp and exacting as a surgeon's scalpel. His photographs are sculptural, as they make us aware of volume, as well as different textures."
Organized by the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, consulting curator for the exhibition was Judith T. Page, and the national tour is made possible through the generous support of Darden Restaurants Foundation, and Palm Bay Imports and Wines, Spirits & Beverages.
Part of a yearlong interdisciplinary focus, "Our Fascination with Celebrity,"; at the University of Richmond, the exhibition is made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund and the generous support of the University's Cultural Affairs Committee. The accompanying illustrated exhibition catalogue, with a foreword by Edward Albee and published by Amphoto Art, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, is available at the University of Richmond Museums.