John Casado
Frank Dituri Karin Rosenthal
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John Casado:
Millions of people have seen John Casado's work without knowing it.

He was the graphic designer who created the logos for New Line Cinema, Esprit and the first Macintosh computers. He also designed album covers for the Allman Brothers, Carole King and others.

His advertising and fashion photographs now appear in catalogs and magazines worldwide. But the work that's been Casado's passion for the past decade -- his fine art photography -- had never been seen publicly until May 13, when his painterly, abstracted nudes went on display at San Francisco's City Picture Frame.

Inspired by the grainy softness of French Fresson printing, Casado experimented with the chemical makeup of his paper and developer to achieve the gauzy textures and shifting grays, off-whites and greenish-brown tones of these engaging pictures.

"I love that concept of blurring the line between drawing and photography," said Casado, 57, who began studying art as a kid in Los Angeles and made abstract paintings for years. "I happen to use a camera and photograph to do my drawings."

These 18 works draw on a wide range of inspirations, from modernist photographers like Steichen and Weston to Matisse, African art and Jungian psychology. Some focus on a male figure whose sinewy body Casado has abstracted and "reassembled" in dynamic sculptural forms, dark volumes playing off light negative space. Others present softly blurred women whose bodies have been subtly elongated or partially dissolved by light.

These dreamy textures have the feeling of "coming out of a deep sleep," Casado says, "when your eyes can't quite focus. You know what's there, but certain aspects of it are in and out of focus, and it changes as you look at it."

Casado has often changed his focus. A graduate of Pasadena's Art Center College of Design, he was art director at Young & Rubicam Advertising before going to work for the great movie-title designer Saul Bass. Forming his own firm, Casado designed a slew of album covers, winning a Grammy in 1974 for Mason Proffit's "Come and Gone."

Tired of that scene, Casado moved to San Francisco in 1981 and got into corporate work. In addition to images for Esprit and Apple, he designed ads shot by top photographers like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Ready for another change, he closed his lucrative firm in the early '90s and took a year off to mull his next move.

His friend Olivero Toscani, famous for his controversial Benetton ads, told him: "You made my life miserable when I took pictures for you, because you wanted to tell me how to take every one. Why don't you just become a photographer and do it yourself?"

Casado took the advice. But he never intended to focus on the figure when he began making fine art photographs. The greatest painters and photographers had done nudes, he says, and "how could I compete with that?" But after shooting some nudes as light studies (and for a model friend's portfolio), he couldn't resist the challenge.

He reels off the names of artists who came to mind -- Matisse, Brancusi, Stieglitz, Lipchitz. They're linked by "the strength of their deduction of the body," Casado says. "They understood the body has these wonderful forms that can be stretched, moved and reassembled." That fascinated him. "You can move a body into forms you ordinarily wouldn't see."

In one picture, a man appears upside down on his shoulders, hanging from above or growing from below, arms and fingers outstretched like tree roots. In another he's curled into a powerfully compact form that suggests a black cauliflower or headless Rodin bronze.

There's a beautiful picture of a woman kneeling in an empty room, arms stretched along her thighs. Inspired by a sliver of moonlight coming into his home, Casado built a special Polaroid camera to capture the image, shot in a dark room with a crack of light coming through a window.

"This is about what would you do if you were in the dark by yourself, with no one around to see you. This is as close as I could get to voyeurism," Casado says. Nudity, of course, is no longer shocking, but "what can shock people is what they feel when they look at a photograph. Give them a reason why they could put themselves into the picture.

"I've had people say, 'John, I love this photograph, but I would never want to live with it. I don't want to wake up in the morning and be faced with this aspect of myself.' To me, that's a success. It triggered something."

Frank Dituri:
Frank Dituri is a photographer who likes to transform the everyday, the recognizable and the obvious into images that border on the surreal. His play on rich black and white tonalities and composition heighten the overall mystery of his often somber images and give his work a unique esthetic effect and individual style. As a world traveler his work is influenced by his experiences. Mr. Dituri’s artwork is continuously exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia. He has had numerous catalogs and books of his images published and has been reviewed by many important publications. His photographs can be found in many private and public collections. Mr. Dituri has been teaching full time for over thirty-two years and has given many workshops on photography worldwide. He is currently in the art department at C.W. Post, Long Island University and is also a teaching artist for the LTA/Guggenheim Museum Program.

Karin Rosenthal:
Quite unconsciously, a body/ landscape motif entered my photographs, a result of living on islands in Greece during a year’s fellowship twenty years ago. I loved to watch the light change hourly on the mountains that joined the sea like giant birds gliding into water. As my photographic vocabulary evolved during that year, those fascinating surroundings rematerialized within my water nudes. Thus began an inspirational dialogue with nature, continued first in Greece and then on Cape Cod, where my settings grew to include woods and dunes. The infrared images, shot in those new environments, further explore harmonious resonances, as the body takes on the character of dune or atmosphere.

My desire to photograph nudes was born of the water, of a passion for being in and meditating upon still waters. Wanting to make statements about human nature as I had before in portraits and street pictures, I sought a way to photograph people in water to create images of a psychological, dreamlike, and emotive nature. When I began the Nudes in Water series in 1975, I felt that water, the source of all life, should display an equivalent density to flesh, invoking a cauldron of creation and a visceral visual connection between body and nature. These motivations were to become the foundation for all photographs that followed.

Between 1981 and 1988, before resuming the Nudes in Water on Cape Cod, I worked on several other series of nudes. My first experiments with the figure in color used 4x5 and 8x10 Polaroid prints and melded multiple exposures of flesh into literal and imaginery layers. Then, Fusion Forms, a series of black and white multiple exposure solarizations, recombined body forms into surreal sculptures. Interior Nudes, elemental figure studies taken indoors between 1983 and 1986, led to later series of abstract nudes.

In 1986, inspired by the play of light on the southwestern desert, where the colors of sandstone suggest flesh, I began photographing the land directly. I think of these landscapes as studies for my nudes. In 1991, in a series titled Canyon Nudes, the figure reappears as reflections in puddles which merge with clay or rock to form geodes, frescos, or shards of life. Fusing sunlight and bluer shade, these images exist within a surreal color world. But the most constant pulse in my photography is the black and white figure in nature, represented in this exhibition catalog.

A surrealistic sensibility plays in and out of these images—we are so often driven by forces beyond our awareness. Transformation, paradox, and the simultaneity of conscious and unconscious worlds are evoked throughout these pages. They appear in a nude’s white flesh becoming black flesh, in a body’s back becoming the texture of the rock nearby, in underwater and abovewater worlds coexisting, in a human form appearing amphibious, or in water transforming into opaque blackness. Often there is a tension between overtones of life and death.

I consider my images most successful when their “objective” reality is countered with several levels of ambiguity and mystery, so that what they seem to be is stronger than what they are. Water and light are often my allies in reaching this goal of illusion. Together, they create reflections and shadows that transform body, rock, or reed forms; they illuminate transparent underwater worlds or bring into being metallic crucibles of life.

by Karin Rosenthal, from the catalog Karin Rosenthal: Twenty Years of Photographs

It is amazing to realize Tseno’s youth in age while analyzing his achievements and the complexity of his talent. The uniqueness of his talent lies in his ability to observe and grasp the essence of reality, which makes his art close to the classical models in photography. At the same time, his diverse point of view and creative interpretations transform him into a conceptual modern artist with a discovering spirit. When viewing his pictures you are involved in a revelation for the human spirit.

Tseno has rear vision for lighting, composition and understanding of tonal change. His ability to communicate his ideas is supported by exceptional knowledge and skills in the entire process black and white photography and tonal sense.

His art works have been exhibited and published in many countries including Bulgaria, Canada, Italy, France, Check Republic and United States. Tseno was well-recognized editor and photojournalist with strong social position in primary press groups in Bulgaria. Tsvetan Tsenov has over then years of experience as a freelance photographer with advertising agencies, record labels, publishers and cinema houses.

The importance of his artistic talent becomes significant for the contemporary Bulgarian culture after the publication of his photo album “B&W Photography”1994. Most influential Bulgarian art gallery ”Alexander” recognized it with grand opening followed by National TV and radio coverage.

Tseno has been awarded in international contest of “Photargus” magazine, Paris with Grand Prize for Portrait photography in 1997.

In the period of 1991 till 2002 he had eight solo exhibitions, four of them in Benham Studio Gallery- Seattle. They had significant cultural impact and contributed to Tseno’s reputation as an established American North West artist. He is a member of Benham residential program. His pictures are displayed in private collections in Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, Dublin, Sofia, Vancouver, Portland, Vidin and Seattle.

His newest works are continued search to defiant alternative process to maximize the technical flexibility in expressing his ideas. He is working on new body of work devoted to glorify spiritual beauty.




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