January 12 through February 26,1989

The inherent conflict between man and machine, tradition and technology, has attracted the attention of the photographers Ken Hassell and Stuart Rome. Through the vehicle of large-print format photographs, they both address the issue of how mankind can retain its humanity in the midst of the anonymity of modern life.

Ken Hassell’s men and women invest themselves in their labor, thereby dignifying the environments where mechanization might have dominated all. In documenting vital labor intensive industries, he finds evidence of the human presence — a wall calendar, the orderly arrangement of tools — in the most austere factories. These photographs depict the spiritual wholeness of workers and their work, and revere those who consistently introduce human scale within the impersonal realm of the machine.

As a documentary photographer in the tradition of Lewis Hine, Hassell uses only ambient light, allowing his subjects to arrange themselves in their workplace. This documentary style fills “The Working Spirit” with images of poetic elegance. While focusing on the dignity of these workers, Hassell has not lost sight of the value of formal composition; in fact, the structural unity in these prints accentuates the grace of the workers and their work. The innate beauty of men and women elevating their work by their pride in it suffuses even those photographs devoid of people.

For Stuart Rome, industry and mechanization impoverish the spiritual aspect of modern life; he seeks as his subjects those people who invest themselves in activities outside the workplace. He is drawn to those who use myth and ritual to infuse and expand their lives outside of the constraints of formal religion. The men and women in these “Ceremonial Portraits” pursue leisure activities which become ritual manifestations in modern life — either formally in Haitian voodoo rites or informally in Halloween customs in San Francisco.

By catching his subjects either before or in the few seconds immediately after they are aware of his camera, Rome avoids self-conscious gestures. He believes that those cultures that hold myth and ritual as priority instinctively echo the gestures of traditional religious representation. Rome’s images of clear, simple gestures are often similar to archetypal religious imagery: the Haitian woman and child, for example, evokes the traditional Madonna and Child composition.

In approaching the same theme from different perspectives, Hassell and Rome communicate the significance of the spiritual in all facets of modern life.

Anne Monahan
Curatorial Assistant

Ken Hassell
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1946

Milwaukee Center for Photography, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, B.FA., 1980
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, B.FA., 1981; M.FA., 1983

Selected Grants:
National Endowment for the Arts, 1986; A.F Gallun Company, 1986

Currently adjunct professor of fine arts photography, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, and instructor of fine arts photography, Delaware County Community College, Media, PA

Selected Individual Exhibitions
1988 Delaware County Community College, Media, PA
1986 The Working Spirit, Frederick Layton Gallery, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, WI
1985 Marine Bank, Milwaukee, WI
1981 Sun Print Gallery, Madison, WI

Selected Group Exhibitions
Selective Image Gallery, Wilmington, DE
Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA

Fine Arts Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee Central Library, Milwaukee, WI
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

Photographs of Contemporary Urban Life, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

Artist’s Statement
Let us rather accept joyously and with gratitude everything through which the spirit of man seeks to an ever fuller and more intense self-realization. -Paul Strand

The human spirit is the manifestation of our own true nature and is revealed in every life experience and in every facet of our environment. These events need not be monumental; indeed most seem very ordinary and unremarkable. However, when viewed with clarity and candor, they always portray something of the human condition. This exhibition is a gleaning of experiences that vividly express “The Working Spirit” through body posture, clothing, personal effects, and work spaces. They are at once unique and universal declarations on the strength and dignity of the common worker.

-Ken Hassell

Stuart Rome
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1953

Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, B.FA, 1977
Artist in Residence, Syracuse University Light Work Program, Syracuse, New York, 1978
Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, M.F.A., 1981

Selected Grants
materials support, Eastman Kodak, 1987; materials, The Polaroid Corporation, 1983; full scholarship, Arizona State University, 1980

Currently assistant professor of fine arts photography, co chair of the Photography Department, chairman of Design Arts Gallery, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

Selected Individual Exhibitions
1988 Orange Coast College, Los Angeles, CA
Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York, NY
Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA
1980 Northlight Gallery, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
1979 Camera Work Gallery, Washington, DC
1978 International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY

Selected Group Exhibitions
Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York, NY

Artists Fighting Aids, Philadelphia, PA

The Large Print, Manchester Community College, Manchester, CT

Ten Years. Artists in Residence at Light Work, Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY

Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY and other venues

Northlight Southwest Juried Exhibition, Northlight Gallery, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Photography as Phantasy, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

Acquisitions, International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY

Robert Freidus Gallery, New York, New York

Photographs of New Orleans Till 1980, New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts, New Orleans, LA, and other venues

New Acquisitions, The Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

Artist’s Statement
My new portraits include subject matter as diverse as parades in the streets of Philadelphia and voodoo ceremonies in Haiti. These themes highlight my interests in anthropological studies and the way spiritual forms surface in modern cultures. The portraits demonstrate a natural affinity for activities that access a mythic potential. These pictures use celebrations as their common theme; Philadelphia parades and Haitian voodoo rituals share the intention of transforming their participants — subtly or not — through costume, music, dancing, trances.

These photographs have been made over the past three years with the intent of artistically disclosing the underlying purposes behind celebrations. These rituals appear to be a way of bypassing a dour modern reality in favor of expressing a rich mythological birthright in a variety of guises: Halloween, Mardi Gras, Mummers Parade, Rock’n’Roll dancing, and voodoo rites.

America’s melting-pot experience has produced a rich culture and artistic life. My work portrays the freedoms of expression sought after in leisure time. Today traditional mythologies are being supplanted by a mechanical conformity. From the cultures I have studied, I discover the adventurous spirit still seeking the mysteries of our creative potential. My work communicates this information into photographic imagery as a testimony to that powerful potential.

-Stuart Rome

The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling, or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel, and collectors, and the curatorial staff of the Pennsylvania nia Academy of the Fine Arts. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Moe Brooker, Diane Burko, Paolo Colombo, Ginsburg, Dr. Perry Ottenberg, Carrie Rickey, Judith Tanenbaum; staff Judith Stein, Morris Gallery Coordinator, Linda Bantel, Susan Danly, NO.Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., Ex Officio.

Copyright, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1989

Melanie Serkes

See Melanie Serkes's full Portfolio