Indepth Arts News: |
"Irving Penn, A Career in Photography"
1999-07-28 until 1999-10-03
Ansel Adams Center for Photography
San Francisco, CA,
USA United States of America
Irving Penn (b. 1917) is an artist whose photographs are
familiar to many. His work has been included in many
international exhibitions and is seen throughout the pages of
Vogueand other magazines. This exhibition presents many
famous images along with works never before seen,
accompanied by archival materials portraying the complete
career of this creative and influential artist. Penn's images and
his archives serve as a record of cultural, economic, and political
trends in the second half of this century.
From 1934 to 1938 Penn studied design at the Philadelphia
Museum School of Industrial Art under Alexey Brodovitch,
who had a great impact on his career. Recognizing Penn's
talents, Brodovitch hired Penn as an illustrator and art designer
for Harper's Bazaarand later, for Saks Fifth Avenue
department store. Penn took time off from a design career to
paint in Mexico, and upon his return to the United States, began
working under the direction of Alexander Liberman, director of
VogueMagazine. Originally hired to conceive of cover ideas,
Penn was soon approached to photograph his own cover. Penn
has since completed over 160 cover photographs for
Vogue,and his long association with this magazine continues
Penn's cover work was only the beginning. Starting primarily
with fashion and celebrity portraiture, he has branched out into
several different genres. His personal and commercial work now
encompasses additional subjects, including still lifes, nudes, travel
and ethnographic studies, as well as advertising photography. A
survey of Penn's career shows a unity and consistency
throughout his work that is rare when approaching such a
variety of subjects.
By pulling his subjects out of context, focusing on clothing and
accessories while removing background information, Penn has
modernized fashion photography. His images are imbued with a
simplicity and elegance, yet they also reveal a fascination with
decay. Often, his inclusion of threads, dust and dirt, along with
wires and other elements from the photo shoot, are left within
the frame of the photograph. His series of
memento-moriobjects and found street material exemplifies an
in-depth exploration of beauty inherent within the process of
disintegration. Penn thus successfully challenges typical notions
of beauty, giving dignity and nobility to cast-off objects and
other unusual items.
Exploring different printing options was a paramount concern
for Penn. Always striving for the best presentation of his work,
he has become a master printer, revitalizing the
platinum-palladium process as well as working with new
techniques. The combination of innovative photography and
meticulous printing has made Irving Penn one of the most
significant photographers of the twentieth century.
Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated catalogue.
Co-published by The Art Institute in conjunction with Bulfinch
Press, Irving Penn, A Career in Photographyis the first
monograph on the artist to comprehensively study his career in
conjunction with his working process.
This exhibition has been organized by The Art Institute of Chicago.