CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 8/5/2016
On the occasion of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, we highly recommend French photographer Lucien Clergue's gorgeous early '60s black-and-white photographs of the Oscar Niemeyer-designed capital, Brasília, published by Hatje Cantz.
Clergue first won fame for his photographs of nudes, whose sensual use of light and water playing upon torsos enthralled Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau, his lifelong mentors. Today he is closely identified with Arles and its environs in the south of France, which he has portrayed for more than a half-century in numerous images of traveling artists, gypsies, war ruins and graves, plants in the swamps of the Camargue, tracks in the sand and bullfighting scenes. Brasília is the first presentation of Clergue's marvelous photographs of Brazil's capital, taken in 1962–63, just a few years after the city was built—a body of work until recently believed to be lost.
Brasilia was developed in 1956, with Lúcio Costa as the principal urban planner, Oscar Niemeyer as the principal architect and Roberto Burle Marx as the landscape designer. Clergue's (mostly unpeopled) portrayals of the metropolis highlight the powerful, upward-sweeping curves of Niemeyer's architecture, while often leaving plenty of space to articulate the cool beauty of its emphatically modernist ambitions. Brasília is a breathtaking celebration of the sublimity of a confident, optimistic architecture, and a crucial rediscovery in the history of architectural photography.
The first photographer to be elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in France, Lucien Clergue (born 1934) has published more than 75 books and directed numerous films. His photographs are in the collections of numerous well-known museums and have been exhibited in more than 100 solo exhibitions worldwide, including at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (1961, the last exhibition organized by Edward Steichen).
All photographs are reproduced from Lucien Clergue: Brasília.
Hbk, 10.5 x 13.5 in. / 176 pgs / 100 duotone.