Current Golden Decade Exhibits and Book Events
Smith Andersen North Gallery
Laguna Art Museum
Minnesota Street Project
San Francisco Art Institute
Bankhead Theater Gallery
The Golden Decade, San Francisco, Ansel Adams, Minor White and the California School of Fine Arts History
Art historians, critics, gallerists, curators and museum staff have taken to calling the 10 years after World War II, 1945-1955, The Golden Decade of photography on the West Coast and elsewhere around the nation. Not only did the arts bustle and surge with energy and popularity in San Francisco and elsewhere on the West Coast during this period, but a new department of photography founded by Ansel Adams would in time have world-wide influence as it helped to transform photography into art.
The photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961, was the first College level art program to teach creative photography as a full-time profession. At the recommendation of Beaumont Newhall, who had earlier co-founded with Ansel Adams the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Ansel Adams hired and transplanted Minor White from Princeton to San Francisco to lead instruction at the new photography program at CSFA. Read the never before published Philip Hyde notes on a number of Minor White’s lectures including the famous one on Space Analysis, the notes from the Space Analysis Lecture start a short portion of a series of blog posts based on Philip Hyde’s notes.
Minor White in turn invited to guest lecture some of the most influential photographers at the time including Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Homer Page, Alma Lavenson and Bill Quandt. The early classes at the school also took field trips down to Carmel to visit the studio of Edward Weston, now considered by many the father of modern photography. Students also photographed with Edward Weston in the field at nearby Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
Ansel Adams taught a number of classes beginning in 1945. By 1946, Ansel Adams offered the first full-time Summer Session. Philip Hyde first attended the school and Minor White first assisted in this class. By the Fall of 1946, Minor White took over teaching and by the Fall of 1947 Philip Hyde began the full-time program, which ran three years through 1950. Read more on “The Early Days of Ansel Adams’ Photography Program.” Eavesdrop on a conversation with “Philip Hyde and Benjamen Chinn talking about Ansel Adams’ Photography Department.” Discover why “The California School of Fine Arts Makes Art History.”
In subsequent years, students from the Golden Decade period put on a number of retrospective exhibitions, most of them located at the school, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute.
Contemporary Interest and Events
Interest in the photography of both students and teachers from the Golden Decade era stepped up significantly when Stephanie Comer, Deborah Klochko and Jeff Gunderson began interviewing and researching their 2006 book, “The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Art.” During the lead up to their book release, in December 2005, four months before Philip Hyde passed on, David Leland Hyde took his father to a reunion lunch in San Francisco organized by Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball. At the reunion lunch classmates who had not seen each other in many years, sometimes as long as 50 years or more, exchanged stories, signed each other’s prints, helped identify people in photographs, and talked of the years since photography school and the unforgettable times during photography school.
Victoria Whyte Ball is the daughter of Don Whyte, one of Philip Hyde’s classmates. After the reunion lunch, Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball began to help Bill Heick, Ira Latour and Cameron Macauley edit and complete their long-planned and only partly written book called “The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Art 1945-1955.” The Golden Decade would be another retrospective volume, already many years in the making, though told more from the students’ perspective. All three of the original authors lived to see a self-published version of this book come out in 2010 in conjunction with a gallery show at Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. Over 500 people attended the Golden Decade show opening and a Philip Hyde vintage print of “Piers, Waterfront, San Francisco” was the first to sell. The show was extended for an extra month to include a new closing reception and book signing.
From 2010 to 2015, there were more Golden Decade Group Exhibits and a number of shows by the individual photographers at Smith Andersen North and elsewhere. At Mumm Winery in Napa, California, the holders of a large permanent collection of original Ansel Adams prints, Mumm Napa put on a Golden Decade show in February 2014. Stefan Kirkeby, gallery owner of Smith Andersen North, who had taken a special interest in representing and helping Golden Decade photographers, put on exhibitions of photographic prints by Golden Decade artists Benjamen Chinn, Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones, Leonard Zielaskiewicz, Charles Wong, Paul Caponigro, Philip Hyde and John Upton. The widely acclaimed and attended Smith Andersen North show This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde and the American Wilderness, put together by Stefan Kirkeby and David Leland Hyde, enjoyed a turnout larger than any other show at the gallery besides the 2010 Golden Decade show.
Redesigned New Golden Decade Book Published by Steidl
During this five-year period, Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball searched for a publisher for the Golden Decade. Finally in 2015, the internationally respected premier photography book publisher Gerhard Steidl of Göttingen, Germany, decided to publish a redesigned version of the Golden Decade book. Steidl published the book in April and shipped it to the US in May of 2016.
Book signings kicked off in the US at the famous Strand bookstore in New York City on Saturday, October 29. The Strand, one of the world’s most prominent English language bookstores, was established in 1927 and claims to contain 18 miles of books. From then on Steidl has kept Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball busy doing book signing events. Other Golden Decade photographers who are still alive, with us and have also attended and signed books at some signings include John Upton, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson, Stan Zrnich, Charles Wong, Stephen Goldstein and Zoe Lowenthal.
Following the book signing at the Strand in New York, the next major Golden Decade event was an opening and book signing at Smith Andersen North for Golden Decade photographer Gerald Ratto. Gerald Ratto’s photography exhibit was on view from November 12 thru December 23, 2016. Many Golden Decade fans bought books and had them signed at this gallery opening.
Golden Decade Gallery and Museum Shows
In case anyone missed this show and signing, an official Golden Decade Exhibition sponsored by Smith Andersen North and Casemore Kirkeby, housed at the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, opened February 4 and will run until February 28, 2017. At the opening for this Minnesota Street Project show, Stefan Kirkeby, owner of Smith Andersen North and co-owner of Casemore Kirkeby, made introductory remarks and introduced Jeff Gunderson, San Francisco Art Institute Librarian and Archivist and contributor to The Moment of Seeing. After Jeff Gunderson spoke, Jack Fulton, photographer and retired SFAI professor, talked further about the history of the photography program.
Also opening this month, on February 19, a Golden Decade museum show will run through May 29, 2017 at the Laguna Art Museum. Founded in 1918, the Laguna Art Museum is the premier museum of California Art created by California artists.
On March 1, 2017 back at the photography program campus at the San Francisco Art Institute, there will be another Golden Decade book signing and presentation. Specifics on the two shows currently up and ongoing and the upcoming signing at SFAI are listed below.
The Golden Decade Exhibit
February 4 thru 28, 2017
Smith Andersen North—Casemore Kirkeby
Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, California 94107
The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955
February 19 thru May 29, 2017
Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, California 92651
The Golden Decade Book Signing and Panel Discussion
A Conversation with Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball, Jeff Gunderson, Stefan Kirkeby and Golden Decade Photographers John Upton, Stephen Goldstine, David Johnson, Charles Wong, Gerald Ratto and Stan Zrnich.
6 pm, March 1, 2017
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, California 94133
The Golden Decade Art Exhibition at the Bankhead Theater Gallery
March 4 thru March 10, 2017
Book signing March 10 at 6:30-8:30 pm
Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center
2400 First Street
Livermore, CA 94551