Lucien Clergue: Fifty Years Of Photography; Vintage And Recent Works

by Matt Damsker


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100 pages; 52 plates. Photographs by Lucien Clergue and essay by Karen Sinsheimer. Hardback, limited edition of 500. ISBN No. 0-9749421-4-6. Published by Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069; phone 1-310-276-0147; fax: 1-310-276-7740. .

Cocteau described him as a "poet with a camera" and Picasso championed him within Europe's cosmopolitan elite, and now, a vital septuagenarian, Lucien Clergue is very much with us. This handsome catalogue, sumptuously printed on Japanese white matte art paper, commemorates a recent display of his old and recent photography at Louis Stern Fine Arts, in which Clergue's consummate style and elegance are evident across five decades. The wonderful, theatrical images from the 1950s are incomparable--the richly shadowed street scenes, the portraits of street performers and the iconic shots of Picasso, Dali, and bullfighters, all of them vibrantly alive in Clergue's dramatic lighting and unerring composition.

By the '60s, of course, his artistry began to blossom, with shots of artfully posed, undulant nudes against natural textures of sand, rock and sea, or with zebra-striped shadowing. In the '80s, his color work offered vibrant portraiture, in Cibachrome, Ilfochrome, Polaroid--of artist David Hockney in a canary yellow shirt, against a field of sunflowers, or red abstractions. Always, an intensely sensual curiosity matches form with hue, geometry with tonality. The results are captivatingly diverse, as this elegant book portrays a visual imagination that seems incapable of running out of material.

Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published this past November.