Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, May 2 – October 14, 2018

“A major new exhibition at Tate Modern will reveal the intertwined stories of photography and abstract art. Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art will be the first show of this scale to explore photography in relation to the development of abstraction, from the early experiments of the 1910s to the digital innovations of the 21st century. Featuring over 300 works by more than 100 artists, the exhibition will explore the history of abstract photography side-by-side with iconic paintings and sculptures.

Shape of Light will place moments of radical innovation in photography within the wider context of abstract art, such as Alvin Langdon Coburn’s pioneering ‘vortographs’ from 1917. This relationship between media will be explored through the juxtaposition of works by painters and photographers, such as cubist works by George Braque and Pierre Dubreuil or the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Otto Steinert’s ‘luminograms’. Abstractions from the human body associated with surrealism will include André Kertesz’s Distorsions, Imogen Cunningham’s Triangles and Bill Brandt’s Baie des Anges, Frances 1958, exhibited together with a major painting by Joan Miró. Elsewhere the focus will be on artists whose practice spans diverse media, such as László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray.

The exhibition will also acknowledge the impact of MoMA’s landmark photography exhibition of 1960, The Sense of Abstraction. Installation photographs of this pioneering show will be displayed with some of the works originally featured in the exhibition, including important works by Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind and a series by Man Ray that has not been exhibited since the MoMA show, 58 years ago.” — Tate Modern

Antony Cairns, born 1980. 
2017. Courtesy of the artist
© Antony Cairns

Barbara Kasten, b.1936. Photogenic Painting, Untitled 74/13, 1974. Photograph, salted paper print, 558 x 762 mm. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Bortolami Gallery, New York 
© Barbara Kasten

Daisuke Yokota, b.1983. Untitled, 
Courtesy the artist and Jean-Kenta Gauthier Gallery 
© Daisuke Yokota

James Welling, born 1951, Untitled
, 1986. Photograph, C-print on paper, 254 x 203 mm. Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham © James Welling. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong and Maureen Paley, London

Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1882-1966. Vortograph, 1917. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 283 x 214 mm. Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum NY 
© The Universal Order.

Marta Hoepffner, 1912–2000. Homage to Kandinsky, 
1937. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 387 x 278 mm. Stadtmuseum Hofheim am Taunus © Estate Marta Hoepffner

Wassily Kandinsky, 1866-1944. Swinging
, 1925. Oil paint on board, 705 x 502 mm. Tate

Man Ray, 1890-1976. Unconcerned Photograph, 1959
. Museum of Modern Art, New York 
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

Imogen Cunningham, 1883-1976. Triangles, 1928, printed 1947-60. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 119 x 93 mm. Pierre Brahm
© Imogen Cunningham Trust. All rights reserved

Joan Miró, 1893-1983. Painting
, 1927. Tempera and oil paint on canvas, 972 x 1302 mm. Tate
© Succession Miro/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

Pierre Dubreuil, 1872-1944. Interpretation Picasso: The Railway, 
c. 1911. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 238 x 194 mm. Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne-Centre de création industrielle

Luo Bonian, 1911-2002. Untitled, 
1930s. Courtesy The Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing 
© Luo Bonian

Edward Ruscha, b.1937. Gilmore Drive-In Theater – 6201 W. Third St., 1967, printed 2013. Photograph, gelatin silver prints on paper, 356 x 279 mm. Courtesy Ed Ruscha and Gagosian Gallery © Ed Ruscha

Jackson Pollock, 1912-1956. Number 23, 1948. Enamel on gesso on paper, 575 x 784 mm. Tate: Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery (purchased out of funds provided by Mr and Mrs H.J. Heinz II and H.J. Heinz Co. Ltd) 1960 © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2018

Otto Steinert, 1915-1978. Luminogram II,  1952. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 302 x 401 mm. Jack Kirkland Collection Nottingham © Estate Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

Shape of Light is curated curated by Simon Baker, Senior Curator, International Art (Photography), Tate Modern and Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, Curator for Photography, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris with Shoair Mavlian and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curators, Tate Modern.

Images courtesy Tate Modern.