John P. Jacob
John P. Jacob (born 1957) is an American writer and curator. He grew up in Italy and Venezuela, graduated from the Collegiate School (1975) in New York City, and studied at the University of Chicago before earning a BA in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic (1981) and an MA in Art History from Indiana University (1994).
Mailart & Photography
John Jacob began his career as an artist, working with reproductive media including photography, Xerography, rubber-stamps, mail-art, and artist's books. During the 1980s, he taught classes on color Xerox and the rubber stamp as a print-making medium, at Pratt Manhattan, with mail-artist Ed Plunkett, and founded the Riding Beggar Press ("If wishes were horses...") to promote his and other artists' work. His first sale, of a sheet of artists' stamps for $75, was from an exhibition curated by Buster Cleveland for the 13th Hour Gallery (NY, 1984). Jacob's efforts during this period include the irregular mail-art magazine PostHype (1981–85), and the International Portfolio of Artists' Photography (1983–86), an assembling book project conceived to integrate mail-art, book-art, and photography. Increasingly interested in issues related to censorship, and working with artists in the Soviet Bloc countries of Eastern Europe, the final issue of PostHype (4.1) documented a mail- and phone-art project entitled East/West: Mail Art & Censorship. In 1987, in a self-proclaimed withdrawal from mail-art, Jacob published The Coffee Table Book of Mail Art: The Intimate Letters of J.P. Jacob. With an advertisement declaring "Each copy contains a valuable original artwork by a famous mailartist!!" Jacob gave away original works of mail-art to recipients of the publication, until his collection was exhausted. Jacob continued exhibiting his photography through the 1980s, presenting his last one-person exhibition, entitled I'm Trying to See, at the Liget Galeria, Budapest, in 1988. He occasionally exhibited under the pseudonym Janos Jaczkó after that.
Eastern Europe & USSR
Since the mid-1980s, Jacob has worked with artists in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, guest-curating exhibitions for institutions in the United States and Europe, including the List Visual Arts Center at MIT, the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, and the Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, Germany. From 1986-89, he was supported by grants from the Soros Foundations, Hungary and USSR. Émigré writer Jerzy Kosinski contributed an introductory statement to the exhibition Out of Eastern Europe: Private Photography (1987), describing the work presented as “the penultimate art of spiritual confrontation.” In a review for the New York Times, photography critic Andy Grundberg observed with surprise its relatedness to “Conceptual, Fluxus, Earth, Performance and Correspondence art forms,” making it different more in circumstance than in kind from Western art. Jacob's exhibition The Missing Picture: Alternative Contemporary Photography in the Soviet Union (1990) was the first one-person exhibition of Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov in the US, accompanied by the works of four young Soviet photographers inspired by him. Recollecting a Culture: Photography and the Evolution of a Socialist Aesthetic in East Germany (1999), commemorating the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, presented the archive of the FotoKino Verlag, publisher of the GDR’s professional photography periodical, Fotografie. With works dating from 1929–89, photography critic Vicki Goldberg observed of the exhibition that "In the socialist paradise that failed, art was supposed to join the battle to create a new classless utopia on its unstable antecedent, capitalism. Mr. Jacob has done a real service by reprinting some articles from Fotografie that give an idea of what was required of photographers." The American photographer and theorist Diane Neumaier, in her history of Soviet non-conformist photography, has credited Jacob's work as foundational to that of later historians such as herself. His essay "After Roskolnikov: Russian Photography Today," edited by Neumaier for the College Art Association's Art Journal, critically examines the impact of Western attention, including his own, on the art of post-Perestroika Russia.
Career & Research
Jacob has been an arts administrator since the 1990s. He became Director of Exhibitions for the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University in 1992, and was named Executive Director in '93. Jacob's exhibitions for the PRC include There is No Eye, a popular retrospective of photographer/musician John Cohen (2002), and Facing Death: Portraits from Cambodia’s Killing Fields (with Robert E. Seydel, 1997). Of the latter, highly controversial exhibition, Thomas Roma wrote of its presentation at the Museum of Modern Art, "At best, the photographs from S-21 allow us to look into the face of our own worst fears and to contemplate our failure to protect others from living their worst fears. For me, as disturbing as it was to imagine someone deciding who will, or will not, be remembered, it was that very act that kept the larger human issues surrounding this body of work alive in my mind." The exhibition was also critically examined by anthropologist Lindsay French, in an essay entitled "Exhibiting Terror," on photography, exhibition, and human rights. Other exhibitions curated by Jacob explored the intersections of photography with dance and music, including the first presentation of photographs by Lou Reed.
In 2003, Jacob was named Founding Director of the Inge Morath Foundation by Morath's husband, playwright Arthur Miller, and daughter, film-maker Rebecca Miller, and in 2014 facilitated the acquisition of the Morath archive by the Beinecke Library at Yale University and a collection of her master prints by the Yale University Art Gallery. From 2011-15, he served as Program Director for the Magnum Foundation's Legacy Program. He is presently McEvoy Family Curator for Photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Jacob is married to Noriko Fuku, Professor and Director of the Art Communication Research Center at the Kyoto University of Art and Design (retired 2017). Jacob's curatorial projects with Fuku include Patti Smith & Friends: Drawings by Patti Smith, Polaroids by Oliver Ray, and Photographs by Michael Stipe (2002), for the Museum Eki, Kyoto, and Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent (2007), for the 10th anniversary of the PhotoEspaña photography festival, Madrid. The exhibition traveled throughout Europe, and was later re-conceived for Japanese audiences and presented in an expanded version at the National Museums of Japan in Tokyo and Osaka.
- Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018. ISBN 1911282336
- Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Aperture Foundation, NY, 2018. ISBN 1597114391
- Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2016. ISBN 9780937311844
- Inge Morath: On Style. New York: Abrams, 2016. ISBN 1419722344
- Ernst Haas: On Set. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2015. ISBN 3869305878
- Kodak Girl: The Martha Cooper Collection. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2011. ISBN 3869303247
- “Inge Morath: the Mask Series with Saul Steinberg.” Foam 26 (Spring 2011), Amsterdam
- Man Ray: Trees + Flowers, Insects Animals. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2009. ISBN 386521696X
- Inge Morath: First Color. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2009. ISBN 3865219306
- Inge Morath: Iran. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2009. ISBN 3865216978
- Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent (with Noriko Fuku). Madrid: La Fabrica, 2007. ISBN 8496466809
- Inge Morath: The Road to Reno. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2006. ISBN 3865212034
- “The Artistic Vision of Edwin Land,” in American Perspectives: Photographs from the Polaroid Collection, Michiko Kasahara, ed. Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2000. ISBN 9784473017635
- “End Paper: Redefining the People's Culture in East Germany.” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 14, 2000
- Recollecting a Culture: Photography and the Evolution of a Socialist Aesthetic in East Germany. Boston: Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, 1998
- “Seeing Sound/Hearing Sight: Christian Marclay.” Rundbrief Fotografie, Wolfgang Jaworek ed., 1998 5(3), Stuttgart, Germany
- Patti Smith and Friends: Drawings by Patti Smith, Polaroid by Oliver Ray, and Photography by Michael Stipe (with Noriko Fuku). Kyoto: Museum EKI, 1998
- Chimaera: Aktuelle Photokunst aus Mitteleruopa (with T.O. Immisch). Halle: Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, 1997. ISBN 3928833979
- “Introduction,” in Matthias Leupold: Living Pictures 1983 - 95. Schöppingen: Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, 1996
- "After Roskolnikov: Russian Photography Today." Art Journal, Summer 1994 53(2), 22-27
- “Aesthetic Revolution or Personal Evolution?” in Eternal Network: A Mailart Anthology, Chuck Welch ed. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1994
- “Photoglyphs,” in Photoglyphs: Rimma & Valeriy Gerlovin, Mark Sloan ed. New Orleans Museum of Art, LA, 1993. ISBN 0894940449
- The Missing Picture: Alternative Contemporary Photography from the Soviet Union. Cambridge: List Visual Arts Center at MIT, 1991
- "Perspectives, Real & Imaginary: Czechoslovakian Photography at FotoFest." Spot, Houston Center for Photography, Winter 1991
- Hidden Story: Samizdat from Hungary and Elsewhere (with Tibor Varnagy). New York: Franklin Furnace, 1990
- Nightmare Works: Tibor Hajas (with Steven S. High). Richmond: Anderson Art Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University, 1990
- “Metamorphic Game: The Art of Rimma & Valeriy Gerlovin,” in Still Performances, Katy Kline ed. Cambridge: List Visual Arts Center at MIT, 1989
- The Metamorphic Medium: New Photography from Hungary. Oberlin: Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1989
- "The Legacy of Witkacy." Spot, Houston Center for Photography, Spring 1989, 4-7
- Thomas Florscheutz (with Steven S. High). Richmond: Anderson Art Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University, 1988
- “The Politics of Experience: Identity and Identification in Documentary Photography.” Views NE Journal of Photography, Winter 1987. Boston: Photographic Resource Center at Boston University
- Out of Eastern Europe: Private Photography. Cambridge: List Visual Arts Center at MIT, 1987
- Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2012
- Die schönsten Bucher Award, Siftung Buchkunst, Berlin, for Inge Morath: The Road to Reno, 2007
- "PostHype in MoMA Dadabase". Museum of Modern Art, New York. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Welch, Chuck. "Global Network Zines: The Public Face of Mail Art 1970-1985". Lomholt Mailart Archive. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
- Welch, Chuck (1986). Networking Currents. Boston: Sandbar Willow Press. pp. 41–42.
- Jacob, John (1986). The 2nd International Portfolio of Artists' Photography. New York: Riding Beggar Press.
- Jacob, John (1987). Out of Eastern Europe: Private Photography. Cambridge: List Visual Arts Center at MIT.
- Jacob, John (1985). "East/West: Mail Art & Censorship". PostHype. 5 (1). ISSN 0743-6025.
- Jacob, John (1987). The Coffee Table Book of Mail Art: The Intimate Letters of J.P. Jacob, 1981 - 1987. New York: Riding Beggar Press.
- Varnagy, Tibor. "Liget Galeria Exhibitions". Liget Galeria. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Jacob, John; Varnagy, Tibor. "Closing the Book: Samizdat in New York City". 111+1+1. Liget Galeria. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Grundberg, Andy (July 19, 1987). "PHOTOGRAPHY VIEW; Two Against the Current, One With the Tide". New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Goldberg, Vicki (February 7, 1999). "ART / ARCHITECTURE; Gleams of Creativity Through a Political Wall". New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Neumaier, Diane (2004). Beyond Memory: Soviet Non-Conformist Photograph and Photo-Related Works of Art. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0813534534.
- Jacob, John (1994). "After Raskolnikov: Russian Photography Today". Art Journal. 53 (2): 22–27. doi:10.2307/777478. JSTOR i231710.
- Brown, Leslie. "John Cohen and Why there is No Eye". Photographic Resource Center. Photographic Resource Center. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- "There is No Eye". Photographic Resource Center. Photographic Resource Center. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- Roma, Thomas (October 31, 1997). "Looking Into the Face of Our Own Worst Fears Through Photographs". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Petro, Patrice (2002). Mark Philip Bradley, ed. Truth claims: Representation and Human Rights. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press. pp. 131–155. ISBN 0813530520.
- Ham, William. "Velvet on Kodachrome: LOU REED at the Photographic Resource Center". Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Reed, Lou. "Emotion in Action". Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Dipietro, Monty. "The high priestess of rock 'n' roll 'n' . . . art". Japan Times. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Ray, Man. "Exhibitions". Man Ray Trust. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Okazawa, Kotaro. "Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent". Time Out: Tokyo. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Interview with Gyetvai Ágnes and John Jacob, 1986 (in Hungarian)
- I'm Trying to See at the Liget Galeria, Budapest, 1988
- On meeting György Galántai, Budapest, 1986
- The Photographic Resource Center at Boston University
- The Inge Morath Foundation
- Kodak Girl: the Martha Cooper Collection
- The Shpilman Prize for Excellence in Photography