Karlheinz Weinberger is the photographer famous for his portraiture of the pre-Stonewall post war subcultures in his native Switzerland. This exhibition at Maccarone in New York will share many unseen images taken by Weinberger from 1959 to the early 80s. Encapsulating his most well known themes, intricate embellished biker jackers, tattoos, crotch shots and touching portraits of ultra masculine men the exhibition will be sure to take a glimpse into Weinberger’s fascinating photography.
Starting his career taking photographs at underground gay clubs of rebellious working class men his work created an aspect of dressing the body like no other subculture of its time can compare its self to.
In post-war Switzerland, they were referred to as the “Halbstarke”, (meaning “halfstrong”), working class boys and girls dissatisfied by the conservative climate of the day. Weinberger’s obsession with their otherness resulted in the remainder of his “true” life’s work, recording and tracking a history of one particular subculture.
Weinberger’s interest in this nascent scene and its use of the body led to an enduring study of their rituals and lifestyle. The Halbstarke’s gang identity was expressed in their distinctive self-branded DIY clothing of which Weinberger created a visual record: jeans embellished by a crotch of bolts or angled thrusts of pins; embroidered and patched motorcycle jackets; armor like belt buckles referencing and emulating American icons such as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley; thickly-teased hairdos accented by the chunky wool sweaters and draped animal skins surrounding them. These tribal distinctions, forged in bold strokes, signify what was evolving into a universal appreciation for the intricacies of the other, their tales of reclusive honor told via tattoo emblems and jacket crests, harkening the underground of the late 1950’s zeitgeist.
Considered in a broader anthropological sense, Weinberger’s practice can be defined by a labored contemplation of the meaning of ritualistic ceremony not only in relation to society, but as the basis of artistic impulse. His approach prefigures today’s proclivity of fetishizing subculture, and moreover appreciates as an authentic artist-subject relationship made whole by a intimate eye of detachment. Although Weinberger’s photographs were for him personal vestiges never intended to be artworks, they are an undeniable contributions to the history of portraiture and a telling precursor to the twenty-first century obsession with the power of looking.
630 Greenwich Street NY, NY 10014
tel 212 431 4977
February 15 – March 29 2014