(people) In Series, In Sequence
February 10–March 19, 2005
32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY
Pace/MacGill Gallery is proud to announce the opening of "(people) In Series, In Sequence," an exhibition examining a recurring motif employed by master photographers throughout the 20th Century.
"(people) In Series, In Sequence" traces the tradition of street photography and the different ways artists met the technical and aesthetic challenges of taking photographs in public places. Included in this exhibition are photographers whose work is dedicated to that task and whose love for photography resulted in pictures which push the medium's boundaries and enhance the viewer's perspective on our world at large.
From the years 1915-17, Paul Strand surreptitiously took candid portraits of New York City's street vendors, peddlers and neighborhood characters. Strand's camera was fitted with a prism that recorded images at an oblique angle to the direction in which it was pointed. His deliberate effort not to disturb the naturalism of his photographs demonstrated his "real respect for the thing in front of him," an honor he paid to all of his subjects.
During the 1950s, Harry Callahan took close-up portraits of women on Chicago's streets. Although Callahan's subjects are primly lipsticked, coiffed and earringed, the pictures hint at the interior thoughts stirring under the surface of their public presentations. When considered as a group, Callahan's images reveal subtle, underlying tensions characterizing post-War American life.
The sequence of photographs comprising Robert Frank's legendary book, "The Americans" (1955-6), chronicles a wide social and geographical cross-section of American life and describes far-reaching themes. Traversing the country and documenting sites ranging from political rallies to southern Baptist funerals to backyard barbecues Frank created a new iconography featuring luncheonettes, juke boxes and motorcycles, symbols which reflected America's shifting identity. He also observed and presented the inherent contradictions and peculiarities of the culture as he observed them from his own position as a foreign-born artist.
Lee Friedlander's approach to photography was more conceptual than documentary. His self-portraits from the 1960s especially reveal an interest in the ideas of permeability and impermeability as they relate to the picture plane. Friedlander's own reflection and shadow bounce back and forth along the street –- on shop windows, mirrored surfaces, the backs of pedestrians' heads -– as he turned the street into a forum in which to investigate photography's possibilities.
In portraits of people she met on the street, Diane Arbus focused her attention on the nuance and mystery of each individual rather than on broad conceptual or social themes. Photographs such as "Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, NYC, 1963" and "A Boy with a Straw Hat and Flag Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade, NYC, 1967" reveal the intimacy with which she engaged each subject and the trust they invested in her, resulting in penetrating psychological portraits.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia advanced the tradition of street photography with his 1999-2001 series "Heads." Photographing passersby as they walked under scaffolding in New York City's Times Square, diCorcia illuminated each subject using artificial light. Like film actors' props, small details in the oversized prints -- a woman's sunglasses, a businessman's tie, a mailman's uniform -- become indexes of identity and transform anonymous people into a cast of characters whose personas are constructed more from mythical, cultural typologies than from specific traits. Luc Sante remarked, “Street photography’s ostensible promise had always been to serve up truth, unvarnished, unprocessed, and unpremeditated... What diCorcia’s lighting did was to dose the form with an unmistakable taste of fiction."