Carnegie Museum of Art

Through February 16
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

A first-of-its-kind photography exhibition featuring the work of McKeesport native Duane Michals is one exhibition not to miss this season at Carnegie Museum of Art.

In what is the definitive retrospective—and the largest-ever presentation of the artist’s work—Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals is on view in the museum’s Heinz Galleries through February 16, 2015.

Organized by Linda Benedict-Jones, curator of photography at Carnegie Museum of Art, the highly anticipated exhibition is augmented by a full range of public programs, publications and events, including behind-the-scenes talks, a book signing, an artist critique, film screenings, an art history course, and a writing workshop.

Set against the backdrop of Storyteller, Thursday’s museum-goers will explore the art and the act of collecting. Meet Pittsburgh-based artists Terry Boyd and Kara Skylling, and discover how you can kick-start or complement your own collection of art and objects. The first 100 attendees to arrive will receive a new, limited edition collaborative artwork created by Boyd and Skylling.

Showcasing Michals’ prolific career and innovative work, Storyteller culls from select loans as well as the museum’s own collections—which constitute the largest single collection of the artist’s output. Spanning six decades, the works in Storyteller feature classic sequences Michals created during the early 1970s, as well as rarely seen images representing later stages of his career. Carnegie Museum of Art, which was a guiding artistic force in Michals’ own artistic upbringing, has acquired 139 of his works, ranging from the earliest images he made in Russia in 1958, to hand-painted tintypes he began creating in 2012.

Born in 1932, Michals was raised in McKeesport as part of a steelworker family. Michals began to stray from conventional and established traditions of documentary and fine art photography during the 1960s, when he added handwritten messages and poems to his prints, produced multi-image narrative sequences and experimented with double and triple exposures. Eschewing the prominent photographic aesthetics of the time, Michals created a powerful and timeless body of work that is both provocative and sentimental.

Displayed via thematic groupings that range from portraiture to interior meditations, Michals’ works address themes that span childhood, imagination, desire and death. The comprehensive exhibition also reflects Michals’ love for two very different cities—Pittsburgh and Paris—via works that explore the beauty, eccentricities and particular characteristics of the two distinct places. Pittsburgh itself is a subject of many of Michals’ photographs, and of his two books, The House I Once Called Home (2003) and A Pittsburgh Poem (2013).

Museum-goers will get a firsthand look at the many themes that Michals explored over more than half a century. Featured are some of Michals’ acclaimed sequences such as Paradise Regained and Chance Meeting, along with his engaging and perhaps surprising Children’s Stories. A section of the exhibit entitled The Mind’s Eye displays Michals’ desire to photograph things not visible to the human eye, such as A Man Going to Heaven and The Human Condition.

Through his poetic imagery and words, Michals also chronicles and comments on his experiences and engagements with countless legendary artists, such as René Magritte, Cindy Sherman, Joseph Cornell, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky and Andy Warhol. Another theme, Painted Expression, shows how, in two different periods of his life—the early 1980s and again in 2012—Michals picked up a brush and applied oil paint to both black-and-white photographic prints and 19th-century tintypes, creating one-of-a-kind photographic works.

Storyteller also examines Michals’ extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which includes assignments for high-profile corporate clients such as Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of famed historical and cultural figures such as Nancy Reagan, Sting and Willem de Kooning.

Even longtime fans of Michals may be unfamiliar with some of the work presented in Storyteller, which is a comprehensive re-examination of his full range of productivity that is considered to be long overdue. While Michals has been recognized via several solo exhibitions throughout Europe, the local Carnegie Museum of Art show marks his first major museum exhibition in the US since 1992. Don’t miss this refreshing look at a historically significant photographer, which also underscores Michals’ vast creative energy and output, artist depth, universal expression and acerbic wit.

From creating to collecting

To further contextualize and celebrate Michals’ creative process and active career, the museum is also presenting a second exhibition that highlights works from the artist’s private collection. Ranging from 1799 to 1999, Duane Michals: Collector includes an eclectic array of objects, with work by everyone from Francisco de Goya to André Kertész, including pieces that are promised gifts to the museum. Organized by Amanda Zehnder, the museum’s associate curator of fine arts, Collector will provide visitors with the rare opportunity to get Michals’ personal take on artists and artworks that have shaped his own practice.

View a complete schedule of public programs offered in conjunction with Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals.

Duane Michals; Primavera, 1984; Gelatin silver print with oil paint; The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.