Issue #203  5/13/2014
J. Paul Getty Museum Acquires Major Collection of 66 Staged Photographs by Arthur Tress
Boy in Mickey Mouse Hat, Coney Island, NY, Copyright Arthur Tress
Boy in Mickey Mouse Hat, Coney Island, NY, Copyright Arthur Tress

The J. Paul Getty Museum recently acquired 66 vintage gelatin silver prints created between 1968-1977 by contemporary photographer Arthur Tress (American, born 1940). The acquisition primarily includes staged images of children from the artist's series The Dream Collector (1972) and Theater of the Mind (1976). In addition, another 20 prints from Tress's Appalachia series and six of his male nudes were gifted as part of the transaction.

"Arthur Tress's images of children in dream-like scenes are captivating, disquieting, and wholly original," explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. "These are the first photographs by Tress to enter the Getty's collection, and add depth and range to the theme of staged photography already in our collection."

Tress began his career creating "straight" street photographs in accord with the prevailing photographic movement in the 1960s, but soon began to explore the theatrical realm of the strange and grotesque. The majority of photographs in this acquisition explicitly visualize the terror, excitement and confusion of childhood by placing children in the center of compositions and surrounding them with a destabilized world. One such image is "Child Buried in Sand, Coney Island/Boy in Mickey Mouse Hat (1968)", which features a boy half buried in beach sand and wearing a cock-eyed Mickey Mouse hat on his head. Although the boy's demeanor suggests peaceful slumber, the photograph introduces elements of menace and ambiguity that are unsettling.

The acquisition complements existing works in the Getty Museum's collection, including photographs by Diane Arbus, Dora Maar, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard that address children and childhood. Plans for a later exhibition of the images are to be announced.

Tress is represented by Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, an I Photo Central member dealer. You can see a selection of his Dream Collector and Theater of the Mind images available for sale here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/24/0/97/1/2/0.

His amazing large color work based on his Installation art can be found here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/24/0/155/1/2/0. This installation work--most of which Tress himself pulled together and spray painted in an abandoned hospital on New York's Welfare Island--is a largely unknown facet of this artist's extensive career, because the hospital was torn down without the work being shown to the public.

His newest series, called "Pointers" can be found here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase_view.php/24/0/160/1/2/0.