Robert Cumming, whose photos transformed camera work, dies

Robert Cumming, whose photos transformed camera work, dies

Robert Cumming, an artist greatest known for Conceptual photographs that have been instrumental in a important transformation of digital camera perform in the 1970s and early ‘80s, died Dec. 16 in Desert Warm Springs, Calif. He was 78.

According to his daily life partner, Margaret Irwin-Brandon, Cumming died from complications of Parkinson’s disorder.

Cumming worked mainly in black-and-white, the founded structure utilized to distinguish images as really serious artwork alternatively than an ingredient of industrial mass media, which favored coloration. He normally built large-structure contact prints, emphasizing a commitment to directness and honesty about preciousness and darkroom manipulation. But he discarded the usual sober, documentary pose of Modernist art photography, preferring rather to throw a monkey wrench into the visible combine.

Common was “Ansel Adams Raisin Bread” (1973), a diptych with a quirky reference to Adams, the reigning king of glamorous, ostensibly simple landscape images. A retailer-acquired loaf of packaged bread, some person slices, a number of plates and a box of raisins showcasing a sunny photo of a younger female in a subject holding a platter of fruit are casually organized atop a desk, which is established up outside in a yard patio.

The image is devoid of any artful composition or lights. A 2nd photograph in the pair is just about identical — apart from this time each and every bread slice is conspicuously dotted with a number of dozen raisins. The bread is an echo of the tabletop, a flat airplane on which ordinary objects have been put. Human intervention in the scene is inescapable. Photographic fact is underscored, all the though built absurd.

Critic Andy Grundberg as soon as famous of his photos, “Cummings practically pulls the wool around our eyes. But he is never interested in correct deception, only the visual appeal of it, and he provides away his sleight of hand in each individual piece.”

With his buddy and sometime studio-mate William Wegman, who started off out earning video clips but ultimately moved into even now photographs centered on his soulful Weimaraner, Person Ray, Cumming was between the very first Conceptually affected photographers to appreciate early results. The new style of digital camera get the job done was from time to time exhibited less than the umbrella “fabricated to be photographed,” which acknowledged the degree to which all images inescapably incorporate a fictional, manufactured factor.

From time to time Cumming applied his very own overall body as an eccentric matter, as in “67-degree entire body arc off circle center” from 1975. Demonstrated in profile with his hips thrust ahead, his torso arched back again and his neck and head awkwardly aligned with the angle of his legs, he’s a mathematical or scientific demonstration whose geometry turns the graceful rationality of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” on its ear. The title’s geometric forms drawn all around his body on the area of the photograph could have been made with an outsized pen-nib, into which the hand on Cumming’s hip is discreetly concealed.

The artist’s photograph, like a drawing, is an artifice.

His function as a painter, sculptor and overall performance artist educated his distinct, often witty solution to photographs manufactured with a digital camera, which Cumming started to take a look at in 1969 and ongoing for a lot more than a ten years. Artists as various as Eve Sonneman, Jan Groover, Lew Thomas, Judy Fiskin and Lewis Baltz had been blurring conventional boundaries in diverse but Conceptually cogent means. Images would never ever be the same.

Cumming was born in 1943 in Worcester, Mass., a once vigorous industrial metropolis on the wane soon after Planet War II. He earned a bachelor’s diploma in 1965 at the Massachusetts Higher education of Artwork in Boston and an MFA in 1967 at the College of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, both of those in painting. Just after an original training career at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, exactly where he began the changeover into camera function, he was hired in 1970 at Cal Point out Fullerton.

Cumming’s initial key team present was “24 Youthful Los Angeles Artists” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1971. Two yrs later on, when he was 30, his initially solo exhibition of photographs opened at Cal State Prolonged Seaside. A 1986 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Artwork. He exhibited broadly.

Cumming gained Countrywide Endowment for the Arts grants in photography (1973), the experimental category of “new genres” (1974) and printmaking (1983), as effectively as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1980-81. Thirty-three of his images are in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum his function also is represented in the Whitney, SFMOMA and New York’s Museum of Modern-day Artwork.

In 1978 Cumming returned to New England to educate at Connecticut’s Hartford Art University, a single of the nation’s oldest art educational facilities, afterwards establishing his studio in the compact town of Whately in Western Massachusetts.

He achieved Irwin-Brandon, a professor of European Baroque music at Mount Holyoke College, in 1988. The couple moved to Desert Hot Springs in 2013. In addition to Irwin-Brandon, Cumming is survived by a sister, Virginia, and a brother, Edward.