ANNA KUSTERA will be exhibiting a selection of over 30 vintage prints by renowned Swiss photographer, Karlheinz Weinberger, opening on December 6, 2008.
Karlheinz Weinberger (1921-2006) worked by day for most of his adult life in the inventory department at a Seimens-Albis factory in Zurich, Switzerland. In his free time, however, he escaped this monotony by immersing himself in photography. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, Weinberger spent weekends and holidays (in Italy mostly) shooting a variety of scantily dressed male “athletes” as a member of the underground gay club “Der Kreis”, occasionally being published in the club’s self-published magazine using the pseudonym, “Jim”. Inspired by George Platt Lyons, Herbert List and Baron Von Gloeden, “Jim’s” images reveal a straightforward admiration for his model’s erotic physicality, but sometimes with a sly sense of humor.
In 1958, Weinberger met members of a small band of teenagers and began photographing them both at his home studio as well as at the public parks and carnivals where they gathered. In post war Switzerland, these self-named “rebels” (referred to by the Swiss as “Halbstark” or “half strong”) were comprised of working class boys and girls dissatisfied with the conservative culture of the day. Inventing their own code of behavior and dress – oversized belt buckles fashioned from metal plates adorned with images of their idols, James Dean and Elvis, blue jeans employing bolts and other hardware for their fly closures, pendants made of thick gauge chain and spent mortar shells – they affected a powerful gang identity expressed by an affinity for their like-minded rebellious American imports such as Marlon Brando, Dean, Elvis, blue jeans, and motorbikes. Working in relative obscurity and anonymity, Weinberger’s images began to be appreciated by a wider audience with the publication of “Karlheinz Weinberger: Photos 1954-1995” in 2000. This book, now a collector’s item, was embraced by an emerging cult of fashion stylists, culminating in the co-opting of the “Halbstark” style in a Versace Jeans Couture ad campaign by Steven Meisel. A corresponding exhibition of modern prints was mounted by the Museum fur Gestaltung, in Zurich and subsequently traveled to the Photographer’s Gallery in London in 2002. This exhibition will feature a selection of images from a recently discovered trove of vintage prints. Capitalizing on Weinberger’s own superb editing skills, these modest sized prints are organized by certain dominant themes: Jacket backs, Belt buckles, couples, male portraits, female portraits, and male nudes. Through his detail oriented gaze, Weinberger always brings a sophisticated synthesis of classical and modern sensibilities to his compositions. The gallery will be screening the documentary film ‘Halbstark’ (2004), the story of the first Rockers in Switzerland, by Adrian Winkler in January. Please contact the gallery at 212-989-0082 for screening dates or for any additional information.