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Photography Exhibit and Reception: AIRPLANE AS ART - Photographs by Bob Seidemann September 13, 2018 (05:30 PM PDT - 07:30 PM PDT)
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Location: SLMath: Commons Room, Atrium

Photography Exhibit & Reception: "AIRPLANE AS ART"

Thursday, September 13th from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, 17 Gauss Way, Berkeley, CA 94720
Directions + Parking

Free and open to the public through February 2019 on the 2nd floor of MSRI during business hours.

Join us for a public reception celebrating this photography exhibit at MSRI in Berkeley. No RSVP is required, but for detailed parking information, see below or contact Jennifer Murawski at jmurawski@msri.org.

“Airplane as Art” is a group of 302 photographs arranged in three portfolios. 94 portraits of seminal figures in 20th Century aviation history comprise the first portfolio. The second and third portfolios consist of 208 studies of aircraft. The photos exhibited at MSRI are selected from the latter.

Work began with hulks of abandoned aircraft in the California desert. Pictures of aircraft in flight were added as were more abstract or impressionistic pictures of the machines. As the work progressed it followed that the airplane designer should be included. If the machines are art, the designers are artists. Bob set about documenting aviation designers in that context. Many of the machines depicted are military aircraft because they represent a maximum effort and the state of the art. The fighting machine is the clearest example of form following function. Commercial
aircraft users are not interested in hard diving inverted turns. Rather they would prefer uneventful journeys. As a consequence all commercial aircraft look virtually alike. It is the military flying machines that display extraordinary and varied shape. It is the blend of exterior form and interior mechanism, electronics, and human interaction that creates "living" kinetic sculpture. 

“The concept for this work sprang from the notion that the airplane is a quintessential manifestation of our humanness, tool making. They are an ancient, primal dream made real,to fly. The essence of the original desire
to fly was, I believe, aesthetic. All subsequent uses of flying machines are byproducts. I look upon the machines
themselves as objects of art, a result of the creative process.” — Bob Seidemann

“Airplane as Art” is included in the Getty Museum Photography Collection, McDermott Library, UT Dallas, and the Boeing Corporate Collection.


Raised in Queens, New York in the shadow of LaGuardia Airport, Robert ‘Bob’ Seidemann developed a fascination with aircraft at an early age. After attending the New York’s High School of Aviation Trades and apprenticing with photographer Tom Caravaglia, Bob relocated to San Francisco. 

In the 1960s, befriending members of the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin, and The Grateful Dead, Bob created both iconic photographic images of the popular revolutionary culture of the time, including nudes of Janis Joplin and controversial album covers that forced debate and created a sea change in music marketing and packaging. Through the 1970s and into the early 1980s Bob created images for a myriad of industry and entertainment organizations, including theatrical blockbusters such as Star Wars, while continuing to produce notable record cover images for acts including The Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, Sparks, and Neil Young. 

Bob’s independent solo 1980s effort “Airplane as Art” captures the return to an early love of aviation. Bob travelled the country and the world, including the then extant Soviet Union, to photograph aircraft and aircraft designers, engineers, and pilots. The ”Airplane as Art” photos featured in the MSRI exhibit include beautiful, sometimes abstract, images of both military and commercial aircraft, massive assembly plants, as well as images of decaying airplanes abandoned by the military. Throughout a career that spanned fifty years Bob sought out, recorded, and created in images that demand second and third takes.


Free parking is available in MSRI's parking lot, located off Centennial Drive (more information). Free handicapped permit parking is available in front of MSRI's entrance at 17 Gauss Way. (More information)

A limited number of parking passes for the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) parking lot, located above MSRI's entrance, are available by emailing Jennifer Murawski at jmurawski@msri.org by 4 PM on Thursday 9/13. Reserved passes can be picked up in the MSRI lobby after 5 PM.

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