Granted, photographer Ugo Mulas didn't brush elbows with Oscar Wilde. But in his 25 fecund years in pursuit of "his reality," the artist befriended a league 20th-century luminaries who produced work of fierce intellectual opinion. Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns all had fleeting moments captured on film by Mulas.
As a man of introspection, and philosophizing, Mulas believed all moments are fleeting, and that they are all worthy. Although, his great gift might have been tipping the hand towards a certain memorability.
One senses this potential conceit in the subtle details of Mulas' Duchamp portrait. Notice the master, a highly regarded chess player, dangling a cigar over his staged photo with a nude Eve Babitz. To think that Mulas, and Duchamp, weren't aware of the ash's potential, to fall, to tarnish the art, would be foolish. Here, between Mulas' lens, we face a master, casually seated before his own mastery. Is it staged? Is it natural? One feels like they themselves are thrust into a conceptual chess match.
"Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1965." © Estate Ugo Mulas, Milano. Courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma, Milano / Napoli.
This is just one of over 60 black-and-white vintage prints that can be found in La Photographie, a curated presentation of work from Ugo Mulas' final publication (of eponymous title). As Mulas documented artists floating between the 1950s-1960s Italian and French art scenes, he went beyond just a take on reality, though. As a man who found art through study of law, and was introduced to artists through intellectual conversations in Milano's Bar Jamaica, it makes sense that Mulas' textual speculations might leave lasting impression.
Mulas' autobiographical remarks appear alongside his photos in La Photographie (the book), and this ethos endures within his legacy. Even now, taken from the archives to the page, and out of the page into the gallery, Mulas' work maintains pertinent, meaningful opportunity for examination. Once more, the artist defies a moment's tendency to flee.
Yes, no one walks in L.A., but when we drop our bags within family-owned, 17th-century designed Hotel Dauphine Saint-Germain, we don walking shoes. Here one finds themselves a mere 11-minute stroll from the historic 14th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, and eight minutes from 17th-century Le Jardin du Luxembourg. From the lush gardens one can continue 20 minutes South by foot to find the work of Ugo Mulas at the Henri Cartier Foundation, and a chance to exchange gazes with 20th-century masters.
La Photographie is presented in collaboration with the Ugo Mulas Archives (Milan) and associate curator Giuliano Sergio; it runs through April 24, 2016.