Karlheinz Weinberger: Intimate Stranger

Gianni Jetzer, Curator
Curated by: Gianni Jetzer

Presentation House Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of rare vintage photographs by Karlheinz Weinberger (1921-2006). Living in Zurich, Switzerland, Weinberger was a self-taught “amateur” photographer whose day job working in a factory warehouse allowed him to pursue photography seriously in his free time. In the late 1940s Weinberger began to publish his pictures for a gay magazine using the pseudonym of Jim, and later was a freelance photographer for a Swiss sports magazine. Working in relative obscurity, Weinberger produced all the prints featured in this exhibition in his home darkroom, and these have remained inaccessible until recent years.

Weinberger’s portraits, together with magazines and clothing, document a youth subculture in Zurich that emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. In 1958, Weinberger met members of a small band of teenagers and began photographing them at his apartment as well as at the public parks and fairgrounds where the group gathered. In post-war Switzerland, these self-named “rebels” (referred to by the Swiss as “Halbstark” or “half strong”) were comprised of working class boys and girls dissatisfied by the conservative climate of the day. They adopted a gang identity expressed in their self-styling–exaggerated hairdos and homemade clothing of embellished jeans and customized belt buckles–that referenced American film icons like James Dean and Elvis Presley. Through the empathetic and obsessive gaze of the photographer, the defiant teens are revealed as poseurs trying to disguise vulnerability, like rebellious adolescents anywhere. Typical of portraiture, this study of a particular social scene by “an intimate stranger” is also a self-portrait of the photographer who saw in his subjects a complex expression of social identity.

This exhibition marks the first opportunity to see Karlheinz Weinberger’s compelling photographs in Canada. In keeping with many of Presentation House Gallery’s unique projects, it celebrates previously unknown and vernacular aspects of photographic history.

Intimate Strangers is curated by Gianni Jetzer in collaboration with the Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger, care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich and Artist Resources Management, New York. The exhibition is produced by the Swiss Institute of New York and is accompanied by a documentary film and a publication available at the Presentation House Gallery bookstore.

Events:

Friday, May 20, 7 PM | Exhibtion tour with curator Gianni Jetzer followed by a reception.

Gallery Press Release
Media Coverage

Karlheinz Weinberger Jeans exhibition publication
Karlheinz Weinberger Jeans exhibition publication
Karlheinz Weinberger, Knabenschiessen, Albisguetli, Zurich 1961, vintage black and white photograph, 50.5 x 60.5 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Knabenschiessen, Albisguetli, Zurich 1961, vintage black and white photograph, 50.5 x 60.5 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, 1969, vintage black and white photograph, 30.4 x 23.8 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, 1969, vintage black and white photograph, 30.4 x 23.8 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, Zurich circa 1962, vintage black and white photograph, 23.8 x 30.4 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, Zurich circa 1962, vintage black and white photograph, 23.8 x 30.4 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, Zurich circa 1962, vintage black and white photograph, 29.7 x 39.1 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, Zurich circa 1962, vintage black and white photograph, 29.7 x 39.1 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, Zurich circa 1962, vintage black and white photograph, 23.8 x 30.4 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
Karlheinz Weinberger, Untitled, Zurich circa 1962, vintage black and white photograph, 23.8 x 30.4 cm. Copyright: The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger in care of Patrik Schedler, Zurich. Image courtesy of Artist Resources Management and Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.

Karlheinz Weinberger: Jeans

Presentation House Gallery exhibited Karlheinz Weinberger's work in 2011 and published Jeans in collaboration with the Swiss Institute. Our publication reproduces a rare portfolio of Weinberger's work that he designed in the mid-1950s.
Commencing his career in the 1950s as a self-taught photographer working primarily for the gay underground Zurich club and magazine Der Kreis, Karlheinz Weinberger (1921–2006) took candid shots of lovers, friends and strangers on the street with an overt erotic investment in his subjects. He soon developed a fixation with the working-class youth culture known as the “Halbstark” (or “half strong”). Its members demonstrated their anti-establishment stance with embellished outfits of denim and leather, in an exaggerated and homemade version of the popularized American bad-boy style of the time. In his stark, posed photographs of these young rebels, Weinberger focuses on individual figures, exploring both a personal erotic obsession and the cultural symbolism of blue jeans, whose scarcity in post war Switzerland implied not just a fashion statement but a badge of pride.

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The Polygon Gallery continues the forty-year reputation of Presentation House Gallery in engaging the public with the most visionary artists of our time. A new waterfront landmark on Vancouver's North Shore, The Polygon offers a one-of-a-kind space to encounter contemporary visual art with a focus on photography.

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