Current Exhibition:

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Along with Selections from the Gallery Collection,
including a number of newly acquired works

March 5 - May 30, 2015

Hours: Wed - Sat 11–5:30 pm; Tues by appointment
First Thursdays of the month open until 7:30pm

Contact:   415-781-1122   •   info@roberttat.com
49 Geary Street • Suite 410 • San Francisco, CA 94108


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Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Along with Selections from the Gallery Collection,
including a number of newly acquired works

March 5 - May 30, 2015

Robert Tat Gallery presents an exhibition of photographs from the gallery's collection, and featuring a group of works by RALPH EUGENE MEATYARD (1925-1972).

Meatyard's photographs defy convention: they have been called visionary, surrealistic, and meditative. Whatever the label, these evocative images of friends and family and the natural world around his home illustrate a delicate psychology of human interaction.

Meatyard was trained as an optician, a profession he maintained all his life in Lexington, Kentucky. He purchased a camera in 1950 to photograph his first-born son. But soon he joined the Lexington Camera Club and developed a friendship with his photography teacher Van Deren Coke (later curator of photography at SFMOMA), as well as a circle of local writers and photographers including, among others, Minor White.

Family and friends freely participated in Meatyard's mysterious staged images, which often involve masks and abandoned spaces, and obliquely reference social, political, and cultural issues. A popular theme in Meatyard's work is the natural environment, which is featured in his "No-Focus" series, in which he deliberately photographed stems and twigs out of focus. In one of the last series he made, titled "Motion-Sound," the pictures were made by moving the camera gently, creating multiple exposures of the woodland scenes that suggest abstract sound patterns.

Cynthia Young, in her introduction to "Ralph Eugene Meatyard" (International Center of Photography, 2004) writes: "Ralph Eugene Meatyard made photographs that are startling in their directness and, at the same time, infused with surprising tenderness. Some images are bizarre and even haunting, while others are overtly romantic. When looking at a selection of Meatyard's photographs, one might think that several different photographers made them.... Each project seems to have been created with a different eye and a different sensibility. But seeing the work over time, one begins to understand the development of his visual thinking and the links between the different stages of his relatively short but prodigious career. From his first images to his last, Meatyard never lost his focus on the force of human presence, even in its absence."

(The above adapted from the International Center of Photography)


The ROBERT TAT GALLERY specializes in 20th century European and American photographs. The eclectic collection of vintage and later prints emphasizes Photographic Modernism, but also includes earlier and later photographs. The gallery shows works by 20th century master photographers, lesser-known mid-century photographers, the Pictorialists, select contemporary artists, as well as unique vernacular and anonymous photographs and selected 19th century works. We also maintain a good selection of vintage historical photographs of San Francisco and Califonia.

ROBERT TAT GALLERY is located in San Francisco's premiere gallery building at 49 Geary Street, Suite 410, near Union Square. The Gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM. For further information, please call 415-781-1122. We also frequently exhibit at art fairs.

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We are always looking for fine photographs to purchase or consign. If you have photographs you would like to sell, please contact us.

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If you are looking for a particular photographic image, works by a specific photographer or a certain style of photograph, please contact us with your request. If we don't have it in inventory we'll be pleased to search for you. We have resources for photographic material all over the world.

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What is a Salon photograph?
Numerous camera clubs around the world sponsor regular exhibitions, called salons, where members of other clubs compete to show work. The salons during the first half of the 20th century were particularly rich, featuring the work of many artists who later became famous. We take a special interest in the the works of lesser known salon photographers, often serious amateurs or commercial professionals doing their own work on the side. Their photographs are frequently beautifully composed and crafted, with an aesthetic and print quality rivaling that of the celebrated artists of the day. Many collectors appreciate salon work for these reasons -- and because it is more reasonably priced than works by better known artists. Salon prints may bear exhibition labels or stamps on the reverse of the photograph's mount, indicating awards or other participation in various salons.

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What is a Vernacular photograph?
The term "vernacular" literally means "of the commonplace." In photography collecting, it refers to photographs which were made without artistic intent. This includes commercial photographs, personal snapshots and albums, historical images, scientific photographs, etc. Many collectors find vernacular images interesting, both for subject matter and for the occasional image that has an aesthetic appeal, albeit unintentional.

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What is a Found Image?
Our Found Images are specially selected snapshots screened with the same criteria as a fine art photograph: artistic appeal, engaging or emotional subject matter, and print quality. We search through about 1000 pieces to find one "gem in the rough" that meets our standards. There is growing interest in collecting snapshots and a new appreciation of them as art, with several fine arts museums mounting exhibitions during the past few years. Found Images from Robert Tat's collection were exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998 as part of their "Snapshots: The Photography of Everyday Life" show.

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