Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Helmut Newton

What is it that separates nude art from pornography? Is it the soul of the artist expressed on canvas (or in a photograph)? Is it the soul of the perceiver? Is it some combination? Could it simply be that art is the pornography of those wealthy enough to avoid the stimga of the latter term? Is there any substantive difference between a patron of the arts and a purchaser of a porno mag? A few artists ride the line so closely that both patron and purchaser are satisfied and critics are not always sure what to make of it.

Helmut Newton's photographs hardly qualify as blue collar porn but also defy the simple and easy conventions of snooty fine art. Sadomasochistic and often nihilistic in tone and temperament, it always challenges the viewer. There are no givens or happy endings in Newton's world only shadow and question marks.

Born of a German-Jewish father and American mother, Newton, who spent time in German internment, conveys a subtle and dark eroticism with occasional forays into humor that seemed strained and out of place. Newton was 83 when he died in an automobile accident in 2004. It is believed that he suffered a heart attack shortly before the fatal collision. His ashes are interred next to the remains of Marlena Dietrich in Berlin.

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