September has been a magical month. Coming off the lazy, hazy, fog of August, the bustle of fall has taken on nuclear dimensions. Hilton | Asmus Contemporary had a spectacular opening for Dennis Manarchy's "Butterflies & Buffalo" on September 6. As always, one of the finest photographers of all time showed his true metal (Yes, yes that was last year's show –– not meant to be a pun on words!) and created a photographic saga of horses, cowboys, indians and buffalos that have all but stopped traffic. Manarchy's "Red Buffalo" has taken over as the new definition of cool. He has more women fawning over him than People Magazine's sexiest man alive!
Big Red, as we lovingly call him, seems to exemplify the modern meaning of classical beauty. Like the male nude statues in classical Greek art history, Red stands in a very slight contrapposto pose, the Italian term for standing in a counterpose. He stands with most of his weight on one foot, his shoulders twisting slightly off-axis from the hips and legs. In this stance, his figure has a more dynamic, yet relaxed appearance. His eyes gaze directly at the viewer, as if he knows he is a thing of beauty, and looks at us as though he wants to instigate a reaction.
Much like Big Red, Manarchy's American Cowboy also stands in contrapposto. Yet, unlike the nudes of classicism, his body is adorned in western gear (saddle, rope, chaps.) He has taken on the psychological disposition of the most masculine of men. He oozes power and virility, much like our Big Red. This black & white cowboy pays homage to classicism. Brilliantly lit, his 3-dimensionality pops off the canvas. Whereas the cowboy in color (photo below) looks more like a pop icon. Both the black & white and color are the same man. One subtle and subdued, the other showing off his true colors.
I have seen the looks on the faces of the people when they come into the gallery. The women are immediately attracted to this silent figure. The men identify with this ideal of the masculine. Which boy growing up hasn't wanted to be a cowboy? He is a symbol of the men who conquered the American west. He is the Marlboro Man.
I did some research about the history of the Marlboro Man. He was conceived in 1954 by the mega advertising agency, Leo Burnett. Philip Morris originally introduced the Marlboro brand as a woman's cigarette in 1924. From that time, it was one of the lowest selling cigarette brands on the market. In the early 1950s, the cigarette industry began to focus on promoting filtered cigarettes as a response to the emerging scientific data about harmful effects of smoking. Marlboro, as well as other brands, started to be sold with filters. However, filtered cigarettes, Marlboro in particular because of its history, were considered to be women’s cigarettes. The creation of the "Marlboro Man" was one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns of all time. In a matter of months, it transformed a feminine ad campaign, the slogan was "Mild As May" to a masculine one. After the utilization of the "cowboy" figure, Marlboro became one of the best selling cigarettes of all time. In 1955, Marlboro's sales were $5 billion. By 1957, sales shot up to $20 billion!
And then came Yazzie, a Navajo friend of Manarchy's who is quickly becoming an icon of native American history. Yazzie's photograph was taken with Dennis Manarchy's BIG camera. When I say big, I mean 35 feet big! On September 18, Manarchy unveiled this hand engineered camera at 2 N. Riverside Plaza (at Madison and Wacker) on a stormy night. Yazzie and his native American friends performed a drum ritual with heavy rain and thunder as accompaniment!
For more than 10 years, Dennis Manarchy has had the dream of building the WORLD'S LARGEST FUNCTIONING FILM CAMERA capable of producing images in microscopic detail not possible in the digital world. The camera takes 97,000 mega pixels, which is unheard of in the photography world. If you think about it, the highest resolution cameras today are 10, 20 to maybe 30 pixels. I recently read about a Chinese Institute of Optics who built a 100 megapixel camera. The defense industry built a 1.8 gigapixel camera that is photographing us somewhere out in space. That translates to 1800 megapixels (I think!) Far cry from 97,000 megapixels!
The negatives are 6 x 4.5 feet, with detail of up to 1,000 times greater than an average digital photograph. Nothing in film photography has been done like this. The size of the negatives allows the film to be developed to over 2-story tall prints (24 feet x 16 feet) with such extraordinary detail that you can see every pore on the skin, the peach fuzz on a child's face, a single eyelash. It is unmatched by digital technology and is the nearest thing Dennis Manarchy has found in his quest for the "perfect photograph."
The camera will be on display at 2 N. Riverside Plaza until October 31. I would make the time to go see it. It is an extraordinary piece of machinery. On display are other portraits in addition to Yazzie. Each one captures the authenticity of the subject. I guarantee it will take your breath away.
The exhibit at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary will run through October 12. Go see the camera at Riverside Plaza and come to the gallery to visit the horses, our American cowboys and BIG RED.
And oh, I forgot to mention, Dennis created a video that is reminiscent of the Gunfight at OK Corral. When you walk into the gallery, you have cowboys shooting at you. Regardless of where you stand, they aim straight towards you. It is a mesmerizing show. Fun, incredulous and majestic. See for yourself. Dennis Manarchy hits another home run!