Artist Spotlight: Edmund Teske
Edmund Teske: “Like Dreams You Could Touch”
Born in Chicago near the turn of the previous century, Edmund Teske (1911–1996) first got his hands on a camera as a young boy. Initially studying music, one of Teske’s teachers granted him access to a darkroom and the budding artist developed his earliest prints.
By the age of 25, after having worked at a local commercial photography studio and spending time in New York, where he met a number of prominent artists, Teske was offered a fellowship at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. There, he studied architectural photography, documenting many of Wright’s projects, and established a workshop for photographic art. Teske went back to Chicago by the end of the 1930s, where he briefly taught at the New Bauhaus Institute of Design before returning to New York to work as an assistant to legendary photographer, Berenice Abbott.
It was during this period that he captured socially conscious portraits of urban life in Chicago, much in Abbott’s tradition. At this time he was also introduced to the work of Man Ray and started to experiment with processing and developing manipulations.
After fulfilling his wartime service as a photographer with the Army Corps of Engineers, Teske moved to Los Angeles in 1943 and took a position in the photographic stills department of Paramount Pictures. Through his friendship with heiress Aline Barnsdall, Teske soon integrated himself into the area’s bohemian art circle and began studying Hindu philosophies.
Teske’s move to California imprinted his work with an air of romanticism, a stark contrast to the social realist photography he had once pursued, and which still dominated on the East Coast. He worked increasingly with experimental film techniques, and in particular with solarization, a process in which light and dark tones were reversed to elicit unique shades of brown and red (as seen in three of the prints included in Lot 110.) He also revisited his older negatives and created new composite prints that reflected his evolving spiritual understanding of temporal connectivity, weaving together distant times and places “like dreams you could touch.”
Teske produced many portraits of Hollywood icons, often artificially situating them in “otherworldly atmosphere[s]” that replicated cinematic special effects. Working right up until the time of his passing, Teske produced a generous body of radical work, and he has been credited with inspiring the influx of process-oriented practices that took hold of West Coast photography in the 1970s.
“Edmund Teske (American, 1911 – 1996) (Getty Museum).” The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles, www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/1561/edmund-teske-american-1911-1996/.
Grundberg, Andy. “Edmund Teske.” Artforum International, vol. 42, no. 9, May 2004, p. 91.
H. E. “Photographs by Edmund Teske.” Calendar of the Art Institute of Chicago, vol. 64, no. 2, Mar. 1970, p. 11.
Naef, Weston. “Remembering Edmund Teske, a Poet-Pioneer of Photography.” Los Angeles Times, 2 Dec. 1996.
“Teske, Edmund.” Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, www.mocp.org/detail.php?type=related&kv=7775&t=people.
Each signed in graphite, with the exception of one photograph; two signed, titled, and dated in graphite verso
Comprised of six portrait photographs of Josephine Chuey, six portrait photographs of a young girl (including one solarization print), two portrait photographs of Josephine Chuey’s family, a portrait photograph of Marjorie Eaton, seven abstraction and landscape photographs including Sieve in Deterioriation, three additional solarization prints, a note card, and a poem. Together with ephemera including a signed exhibition catalogue, sketch, and two newspaper clippings
Provenance: The Chuey House, Los Angeles, California; Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above)
Literature: Spirit into Matter: The Photographs of Edmund Teske. J. Cox. 2004. Pl. 66 and 68.; “A Sequence of Photographs by Edmund Teske.” Aperture. Vol. 12. No. 3. 1965. N.pag.
February 16, 2020 Modern Art & Design Auction