Presentation House Gallery
The Polygon Gallery
333 Chesterfield Avenue
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3G9

Strangelove’s Weegee / Zhang Yaxin: Model Operas

Opening reception:
June 14, 7PM

Screenings:
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) by Stanley Kubrick
Wednesday, July 10, at 7PM
Empire Theatres Esplanade, 200 Esplanade Ave, North Vancouver

Yang Ban Xi, (2006) by Yang Ting Yuen and Weegee’s New York, (1948) by Weegee
Wednesday, July 17 at 7PM
Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street, Vancouver

Talk:
Curator of Strangelove’s Weegee John O’Brian, Saturday June 22, 1PM

 

Strangelove’s Weegee is an exhibition featuring photographs by the infamous press photographer Weegee taken on the set of the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The exhibition also includes publicity stills, posters, lobby cards and other material related to the film, and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue that includes an essay by John O’Brian.

Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick once thought about living in Vancouver, but unlike Howard Hughes never acted on the idea. Both men were obsessed with the subject of war, particularly with the threat of nuclear catastrophe. Kubrick brought a sense of humour to this subject, dark though it was. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room,” protests President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove. Among the photographs taken by Weegee on the film set are fight scenes in the War Room, including the famous pie fight scene cut from the final version of the film. These photographs are in the exhibition.

Kubrick began shooting Dr. Strangelove in February 1963, just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD for short). He shot the film in black and white and hired Weegee as a special consultant, specifying that he take flash pictures on the set. The exhibition explores Weegee’s tabloid  aesthetic and Kubrick’s interest in them. An audiotape of a hilarious conversation between the photographer and the main actor, Peter Sellers, reveals the photographer’s role extended to teaching Sellers an American/European accent.

Weegee aka Arthur Feelig (1899 –1968) was a New York press photographer best known for graphic images of violence and crime. He also produced photography books and films. His photographs are in major museum collections. In 2012 a major survey of his work, Murder is My Business, was organized by the International Center of Photography in New York, who have loaned material for this exhibition.

Starting out as a photojournalist, Stanley Kubrick was one of the most significant and influential filmmakers of the twentieth century. He was a director, editor and cinematographer. His films include Lolita (1962) A Clockwork Orange (1971), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and The Shining (1980), amongst others.

John O’Brian is a professor, writer and curator. He has taught art history at the University of British Columbia since 1987 and published more than a dozen books. His current research is on the engagement of photography with the nuclear era in North America and Japan. He is presently working on an exhibition for the Art Gallery of Ontario, Camera Atomica, which explores interconnections between the camera and nuclear events.

 

Zhang Yaxin: Model Operas, an exhibition of colour photographs by Chinese photographer Zhang Yaxin that vividly record the actors and scenery of the Communist Party-sanctioned “model operas.”

Zhang Yaxin, who was also chief photographer of the Communist Party leaders, devoted eight years of his life from 1969–1976 to documenting the opera productions. Born in 1933, he graduated from the photography department of Changchun Film Academy and joined the Xinhua News Agency as a staff reporter in 1963. He had one of three Hasselblad cameras in China at that time, and had unlimited access to colour Kodak film. His photographs were disseminated extensively within China on posters, stamps and craftworks. These photographs have rarely been seen outside of China.

During the ten-year Cultural Revolution, traditional opera was banned and Mao Zedong’s wife Jiang Qing promoted a new form of opera that focused on broad revolutionary themes, elevating the working class and condemning counter-revolutionaries. These stories conveyed state propaganda through vivid imagery in an innovative fashion that incorporated the most modern techniques of cinematography, song, and dance.

More than thirteen operas were created during the Cultural Revolution, but the most popular ultimately became known as “the eight model works”. They were filmed in bright Technicolor, and were the only kind of entertainment allowed in the theatres, on television and radio. The productions involved China’s best playwrights and performers, and the main performers became instant stars. Some say that the operas were the only forms of artistic expression officially allowed in China at that time.

This exhibition is made possible thanks to generous loans from the Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto and See+ Gallery, Beijing.

 

 

  • Unidentified Photographer, [Weegee and Peter Sellers after the famous pie scene on the set of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb], 1963, Courtesy International Center of Photography

  • Zhang Yaxin, Raid on the White Tiger Regiment, 1971, pigment print on archival paper, courtesy of see+ Gallery, Beijing, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto