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Allen Porter (b. 1926)

A Brief Biography

Allen Porter was born in Chicago in 1926. Following high school graduation he enrolled in the art program at Bradley Polytechnic (now Bradley University) until called to service in World War II. Returning to Chicago in 1946, he entered the New Bauhaus/Institute of Design founded by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. After finishing at the Institute of Design he was one of a group of pioneering modernist designers who moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s.  There he founded an internationally known design firm working with leading edge architects, furniture/lighting companies, cultural institutions and other industries. He has won numerous awards and his work has been exhibited and published in design journals and books worldwide. He was a founding member of the committee that saved Simon Rodia’s famous Watts Towers, and is a board member of SPACES, the non-profit organization that has documented and preserved folk art environments around the world. He returned to Chicago in 1970 where he founded another design firm. His concern with preserving and promoting modernist architecture and design led him to help found the Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond group. Porter has taught at California State College in Los Angeles, University of Illinois and Columbia College in Chicago.

A lifelong photographer, Porter expanded on his experiences at the Institute of Design. Photography became a dominant form of expression in his career, both as a personal mode and as applied to his design work. He integrated some aspect of photography, either his own, or in collaboration with other leading edge photographers in  his design projects including packaging, advertising, catalogs, posters, theater programs, signage and exhibitions. In his personal work he explored many of the techniques developed at the Bauhaus-inspired Institute of Design. He framed his images in the camera and seldom cropped or manipulated the resulting picture. A strong graphic quality, influenced by architectural forms, characterized many of his images as well as the discreet “shards-segments-of-the-whole,” that he increasingly perfected. Over the years he employed nearly all the abilities that film and camera provided. His photography is included in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, the Montclair Art Museum and private collections. His photography work has been exhibited at the Simon Lowinsky Gallery, the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Robert Henry Adams Gallery and others.

 

Photograms

 

PHOTOGRAMS are images created without a camera, using objects and light to directly expose photographic paper.  Since each exposure is unique, a static object can be shown in transition to another form (see Triptych). Various effects can be achieved with color overlays, developing trays filled with water and objects floating above while the photographic paper sits at the bottom (see Seanet 1 & 2).  Additional experiments achieved effects with solarization and similar techniques using different lights and chemicals (see Darkroom Drawing & Untitled). These projects were basic aspects of the Foundation Course which  Moholy-Nagy brought to the New Bauhaus/Institute of Design (ID) where Porter studied. 

 

 

 

Fangram Triptych, c. 1950

Three Vintage Silver Gelatin Photograms

14.25 x 11 inches each

Port011

$ 15,000 sold as a set only

 

Untitled (Photogram), c 1948

vintage gelatin silver print

14 x 11 inches

$ 9,500

Curly Filmgram, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 10 7/8 in. ( 35.56 x 27.62 cm )

Port021

$ 9,500

Spiral Photogram, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 11 inches

35.56 x 27.94 cm

Port026

$ 9,500

 

Punch Tape, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

10 x 8 inches

25.4 x 20.32 cm

Port028

$ 4,800

Falling Ribbon, 1948

Vintage Silver Gelatin Photogram

6 x 4 1/4 in.

15.24 x 10.8 cm

Port 020

$ 1,800

Pendulum # 1, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 11 inches

35.56 x 27.94 cm

Port027

$ 3,500

 

Pendulum #2, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 5 1/2 inches

35.56 x 13.97 cm

Port024

$ 2,500

 

Pendulum # 3, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 5 1/2 inches

35.56 x 13.97 cm

Port025

$ 2,500

 

Pendulum #4, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 5 1/2 inches

35.56 x 13.97 cm

Port023

$ 2,500

 

Leaf #1, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

14 x 5 1/2 inches

35.56 x 13.97 cm

Port029

$ 2,500

 

Sea Net #1, 1953

Vintage Silver Gelatin Photogram

10 1/2  x 13 1/2 inches

Port018

$ 4,500

 

Sea Net #2, 1953

Vintage Silver Gelatin Photogram

10 1/8  x 8 1/2 inches

Port017

$ 2,700

 

Metal Type #1, 1948

Vintage Silver Gelatin Photogram

9  x 8 inches

Port021

$ 1,500

Metal Type #3, 1948

Vintage Silver Gelatin Photogram

10  x 6 3/4 inches

Port023

$ 1,700

Darkroom Drawing 1/1, 1948-49

Vintage photographic emulsion

5 1/2 x 2 7/8 inches

$ 750

Handgram, 1950

silver gelatin photogram

7 1/2 x 9 inches

19.05 x 22.86 cm

Port030

$ 2,500

Flower Diptych, 1952

Vintage Silver Gelatin Photogram

6 x 4 7/8 in.

15.24 x 12.38 cm

$ 1,200

Untitled 1/1, c. 1960

Vintage Photogram with Color Gelatin Overlays-Silver Gelatin

5 x 4 inches

$ 750


Woodcuts

 

These experimental woodcut were created by Porter for the Foundation Course taught by Richard Filipowski.  Filipowski later taught at MIT and introduced Bauhaus principles to the MIT curriculum.

 

 

Label from back of piece

Experimental Project for Institute of Design 1/1, 1947

woodcut on paper

8 x 6.25 each

Port007

$ 2,000

 

 


Silver Gelatin Prints

 

At the Institute of Design, conventional photography offered ways of shooting objects and scenes in a new context. A sculpture created in one class was taken to the photo studio and a new dimension of light and shadow cast upon it (see Contours). Scale, close-up, subtle light play and new viewpoints gave a fresh impression to many familiar scenes.        

 

 
   

Table Top, c.1947/2005

Silver Gelatin Print

edition of 5

14  x 11 inches

Port016

$ 1,500

Bridges Up, 1947-48/2005

silver gelatin print

edition of 5

14  x 11 inches

Port008

$ 1,500

 

Freighter - Chicago River, c. 1947-48/2005

edition of 5 silver gelatin print

14  x 11 inches

Port012

$ 1,500

 

Hidden Moon, c1947/2005

silver gelatin print

edition of 5

11  x 14 inches

Port015

$ 1,500

 

Lower Wacker - Arc, c. 1947/2005

silver gelatin print

edition of 5

14  x 11 inches

Port013

$ 1,500

 

Lower Wacker - Stairs, c. 1947/2005

silver gelatin print

edition of 5

14  x 11 inches

Port014

$ 1,500

 


Archival Digital Prints

 

Constantly experimenting, Porter brought new technologies to the traditional film/slide presentation.  His use of high resolution scanning, archival paper and inks produce brilliant, long lasting prints. Photographing over many years, many places, and a range of subjects, much of  Porter’s work took on  a very graphic mode – incorporating a belief  that part of an object was often more dynamic  than the total. He calls them “Shards”. They force the viewer to imagine beyond the boundary of the image. Viewed in isolation, they are abstractions with a life of their own.    

 
 

Magazine Rack 6, c. 1950/2005

Archival Digital Print

edition of 10

13 x 19 inches

Port004

$ 750

 

Orange Yellow Blue, ca. 1950/2005

Archival Digital Print

9  x 6 inches

Port005

$ 450

 

Yellow Bolt,  c. 1950/2005

Archival Digital Print

9  x 6 inches

Port034

$ 450

 

White Circle, c. 1950/2005

Archival Digital Print

5 1/4  x 8 inches

Port006

$ 350

 

Great Crates, c. 1950/2005

Archival Digital Print

9  x 6 inches

Port032

$ 450

Red Bookstore, c. 1950/2005

Archival Digital Print

9  x 6 inches

Port033

$ 450

 

 


Exhibitions:

 
1997 The New Bauhaus: Designs for Life, Simon Lowinsky Gallery, New York, NY
1998 Experimental Vision: Photography at the New Bauhaus and Institute of Design, Pasadena, CA
2002 The New Bauhaus: Vintage Photographs from the Chicago Institute of Design, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York, NY
2002 Light Experiments of the 1930s and 1940s: Institute of Design, Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Chicago, IL
2006 Chicago Bauhaus: the Formative Years of the Institute of Design, Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Chicago, IL
2006 Fotowork 2006: Alternative Processes, Flatfile Galleries, Chicago, IL

Collections:

 
  The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
  Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ

   

     All artwork is offered subject to prior sale and although we regret any errors or omissions, we reserve the right to change anything.