Laguna Art Museum Brings Lost Art of Photography and Seduction to Light: WILLIAM MORTENSEN’S LAGUNA BEACH


The Laguna Art Museum will present Photography & Seduction: William Mortensen’s Laguna Beach from October 1, 2022 through January 15, 2023. Honoring the Laguna Beach resident, the exhibition will be one of the only museum exhibits of his work, illustrating his rise as one of the most famous photographers of his time.

“We look forward to presenting one of the only museum exhibits devoted to the work of the revered and hated William Mortensen,” said Julie Perlin Lee, executive director of the Laguna Art Museum. “As well as featuring a variety of pieces from throughout Mortensen’s celebrated career, the exhibition will be accompanied by a film narrated by Vincent Price about the artist.”

Photography and Seduction will take museum visitors on a journey through Mortensen’s career, from his star-studded Hollywood debut to his teachings, as well as influences, processes and more. Mortensen was the first American photographer to use the grotesque in a series of long-term artworks, using tools like pens, paints, pumice, and razor blades to alter images. After making a name for himself in Hollywood, Mortensen was drawn to the town of Laguna Beach where he opened a school of photography and was often called “The Master” by his students for teachings known as “The Mortensen Method”.

“What we want to accomplish is recast Mortensen and his work,” said guest curator Larry Lytle. “We will show the connection between Mortensen’s photographs and his teaching; his books and articles; the photographic processes he invented and those he appropriated by using them in a manner suited to his needs: his philosophy of art and photography; the use of branded products to control the approach of students using its processes; and the multitude of artistic influences such as painting, film, poetry and literature, as well as his connections to figures in a variety of fields who have had an impact on him. »

The American photographer William Mortensen (1897-1965) is remembered as being in conflict with the commonly accepted photographic techniques of his time. Rather than presenting a pure or unaltered image, Mortensen altered his photographs in any way necessary to achieve the desired effect. Mortensen disagreed with the f64 group whose members included influential American photographers like Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston. Mortensen is said to have been wiped from photography history by his peers. Ansel Adams notably referred to Mortensen as “Antichrist”. His best-known works deal with themes related to the grotesque; however, Mortensen focused on various subjects throughout his career.

William Mortensen established his home and the Mortensen School of Photography on October 2, 1931. The school was originally located at 1731 South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. Mortensen moved the school to different locations in Laguna Beach until his death in 1965.

In addition to photography and seduction, the museum will present Her Great Gift: The Nancy Dustin Wall Moure Collection from August 28, 2022 to February 12, 2023. The exhibition features 40 works of art from the 1830s to the 1970s from Nancy, 2022 Wendt Prize recipient. Dustin Wall Moure’s collection that traces how artists have documented the Californian experience. See the oldest known oil painting done in Southern California, California plein air paintings, WPA period watercolors, mid-century abstractions, and explorations of light and space.

For more information on Photography and Seduction: William Mortensen’s Laguna Beach and His Great Gift: The Nancy Dustin Wall Moure Collection, visit lagunaartmuseum.org. To stay connected and find out about upcoming events, follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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