Konrad Cramer (1888-1963) Photographs
September 11, 2007 - November 03, 2007
Composition with Pfizer Labels, 1950s
gelatin silver print
10 x 7-3/4 inches
FROM SEPTEMBER 11th THROUGH NOVEMBER 3rd, 2007, ZABRISKIE GALLERY EXHIBITS PHOTOGRAPHS BY KONRAD CRAMER (1888-1963). Reared as a modernist painter, Cramer worked in photography from the thirties until his death.
Emigrating from Germany at age 23, Konrad Cramer spent the rest of his career working out the problems of modernist painting and photography in Woodstock, NY. Vetted in the manifestos of The Blue Rider group, Cramer’s paintings bear both the imprint of Woodstock as well as the influence of Kandinsky. But it was the influence of Alfred Stieglitz that colored much of Cramer’s last thirty years, particularly in that Stieglitz impressed upon him the artistic power of the camera. Meeting Stieglitz in the early teens, Cramer was producing serious photographic works by the 1930s. According to Florence Cramer, Konrad “took up photography to clarify aesthetic issues in painting.” Issues of representation, space, and symbol in his paintings are further explored in his abstractions and experimental photography, but ultimately the work illustrates an immersion in the particular problems of photography.
Throughout the thirties and forties, Cramer (still producing drawings and paintings) explored the powers and limitations of photography. Reverberations of Strand and Stieglitz can be felt in Cramer’s traditional still-lifes and landscapes, but further experiments with solarization and more complicated subject arrangements show that Cramer was not content to simply make beautiful prints. He began making complicated arrangements of found objects – Pfizer product labels, among others – for no other purpose than to be photographed. The photographs are not documentary and the arrangements themselves have not been preserved. The real work was the camera’s – Cramer worked with lighting arrangements, producing varying shadows, multiple exposures and other photographic manipulations. The pilings of discontiguous planes fracture the metaphorical lens of pictorial space while the camera captures that image with its literal lens. These constructions echo Cramer’s earlier non-photographic work, full of edges and geometric reworkings of space. Painterly solarizations of nudes bring Cramer’s media experimentation full circle, appearing at times pencil-rendered while being inescapably photographic.
Konrad Cramer died in 1963 in Woodstock. Zabriskie Galley has exhibited Cramer’s work in all media since 1973, and today represents the photographic material of the Cramer estate exclusively.