John Gutmann at 100

Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition JOHN GUTMANN at 100 from July 7 through August 20, 2005.

Born in Germany in 1905 and trained as a painter, Gutmann took up photography in 1933 and supported himself as a photojournalist after immigrating to the United States. A student of the German expressionist painter Otto Mueller, Gutmann brought to the task of documenting his new surroundings a sensibility nurtured in the avant-garde circles of Berlin. He became fascinated by the popular culture of the United States. “I was seeing America with an outsider’s eyes — the automobiles, the speed, the freedom, the graffiti,” he explained in a 1989 interview, and his powerful images, which record “the almost bizarre, exotic qualities of the country,” established his reputation.

Having settled in San Francisco, he helped link the West Coast to European modernism, inspiring later generations of photographers through his unique capacity to disclose the ambiguities and oddities within the commonplace. With a European’s cultural background and an eye trained in the German avant-garde, Gutmann observed aspects of American culture that eluded most American artists of his time.

To mark what would have been the artist’s 100th birthday, Fraenkel Gallery will be exhibiting a cross-section of paintings, drawings, and photographs from his prodigious career. Gutmann brought several of these paintings to San Francisco in 1933, and they hung on the walls of his home until his death in 1988, at the age of 93.

Gutmann has been the subject of a number of important international museum exhibitions, including a major retrospective organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1989, which traveled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

JOHN GUTMANN at 100 can be seen concurrently with Several Exceptionally Good Recently Acquired Photographs XVII.