September 20, 2014 - Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) - Martin Karplus
September 20, 2014

Martin Karplus

Self-portrait of Martin Karplus, Marineland of the Pacific, California, USA, 1956. © Martin Karplus Photography.

Martin Karplus
Photographs 1953–2009

September 25–November 28, 2014

Opening: September 24, 7:30–9pm

Austrian Cultural Forum New York
11 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
Hours: Daily 10am–6pm

T +1 212 319 5300
F +1 212 644 8660
desk [​at​]  
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Martin Karplus is a chemist, Professor emeritus at Harvard University, and Nobel laureate who has spent the past 50 years consumed by a passion for documenting humanity in thousands of photographs. Sourced from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, these photographs candidly capture societies at pivotal moments in their cultural and economic development in rich Kodachrome color. From September 25 through November 28, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York will present these works in his first ever New York retrospective, Martin Karplus: Photographs 19532009.

In 1953, nearing the completion of his PhD at Cal Tech, the Austrian-born American Karplus received his uncle’s Leica camera as a gift from his parents and headed to Oxford University on a fellowship. In the ensuing years he would spend months on end exploring the globe, documenting what he describes in his artist statement as a “vision of a world, much of which no longer exists.” Images from the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, and Germany present the closure of a bygone lifestyle as societies modernized and rebuilt in the wake of World War II and the dawning of the Cold War. Further travels throughout the 1950s took him to the Americas, where he photographed the exuberance of suburban Californian prosperity alongside Native and Latin Americans living a way of life uninterrupted for centuries, yet largely unheard of today. A more recent series from 2008–09 presents a look at China and India as each nation’s unfurling economy brings rapid modernization, as well as to Japan, where it has firmly taken root.  

The pictures reflect the inquisitive glance and the profoundly humanist vision of a young scientist in the idealistic post-war period. Taking pains to capture truly candid images, Karplus would employ a Leica Hektor long-focus lens, focusing on nearby objects in a technique reminiscent of American Farm Security Administration photographers. The then-novel 35mm Kodachrome film infuses these images with its distinctively rich, saturated tone, breathing a vibrant life into scenes ranging from Chinese rice paddies to early Communist Yugoslavia and the beaches of California. 

The opening reception for Martin Karplus: Photographs 1953–2009 will take place on Wednesday, September 24, from 7:30 to 9pm. The artist will be present. Admission is free. 

Click here for more information.

Press images are available here.

About the artist
Professor Martin Karplus is a pioneer in the use of magnetic resonance imaging in the field of chemistry. As an eight-year-old, Karplus and his family were expelled from Vienna after the Anschluss, eventually finding a new home in the United States. Karplus completed his BA at Harvard University and earned his PhD under the two-time Nobel laureate Linus Paulin at the California Institute of Technology. His long career as a leading scientist brought him to Oxford University, the University of Illinois, Columbia University, and Harvard University as well as several guest professorships in France. The Harvard professor emeritus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 9, 2013 for the “development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems” (shared with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel). 

In a 12-year period, from 1953 to 1965, Karplus produced more than 4,000 color slides. Since 2005, Martin Karplus’s images have been exhibited in various cities in the United States and Europe, most recently in the solo exhibition Martin Karplus, la couleur des années 50 at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris in the summer of 2013.

About the Austrian Cultural Forum
With its architectural landmark building in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York hosts more than 200 free events annually and showcases Austrian contemporary art across the board: visual arts, music, performance, film, literature, architecture, and academic thought. The Austrian Cultural Forum houses around 10,000 volumes in its state-of-the-art library, and enjoys long-standing and flourishing partnerships with many venerable cultural and academic institutions throughout New York and the United States.

Visit for more information. 

Media contacts
ACFNY: desk [​at​] / T +1 212 319 5300
Andy Cushman: ac [​at​] / T +1 917 744 4042

E, M Train to Fifth Avenue/53rd Street 
B, D, F, M Train to 47-50 Street/Rockefeller Center 
E, M, 6 Train to 51st Street/Lexington Avenue
M 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to 53rd Street

Admission to exhibitions, concerts, and other events is free. 
Reserve tickets online at or call +1 212 319 5300 ext. 77.


Martin Karplus at Austrian Cultural Forum New York
Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY)
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