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Indepth Arts News:

"New York: Capital of Photography"
2002-04-28 until 2002-09-02
Jewish Museum
New York, NY, USA United States of America

From April 28 to September 2, 2002, The Jewish Museum will present a pioneering exhibition chronicling the changing face of New York City throughout the 20th century, as interpreted by several generations of ambitious photographers with deep affection for the metropolis. More than 100 color and black and white photographs visualize the city's humanity through its people, rather than its monuments or famous sites.

New York: Capital of Photography addresses the fact that many of the practitioners of the quintessentially modern art form of street photography were or are Jewish. These photographers showed an affinity for those on the margins of society, a perspective that came to inform the language of street photography and its sly poetry of everyday life.

Works on view have been assembled from major public and private collections, archives, galleries, and the artists themselves, with several key prints acquired by The Jewish Museum especially for the occasion. Included will be a number of the century's photographic icons as well as many more images that will be entirely new to the public eye. Indeed, many of the featured photographs will be published for the first time in the exhibition's accompanying illustrated catalogue.

Among the 60 photographers represented in the exhibition are such luminaries as Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Lewis Hine, Helen Levitt, Ben Shahn, Lisette Model, Alfred Stieglitz, and Paul Strand. In identifying the different impulses that characterize New York street photography, the exhibition brings to the fore the contributions of such lesser known but extraordinary photographers as Louis Faurer, Morris Engel, Ted Croner, Sid Grossman, and Leon Levinstein.

The exhibition has been conceived and organized by guest curator Max Kozloff, the noted art critic and photography historian, and coordinated by Karen Levitov, Assistant Curator of Fine Arts at The Jewish Museum. The lavishly illustrated New York: Capital of Photography, published by The Jewish Museum and Yale University Press, New Haven and London, will accompany the exhibition and feature an extensive essay by Kozloff.

'Twentieth-century photography in New York is a giant picture archive largely visualized by the practitioners represented in this exhibition, two-thirds of whom are Jewish. These photographers are notably unable to hide their affection for the city, even as they brilliantly document what they see as its shortcomings,' says Kozloff. He continues, 'Their work, marked by exuberance, pathos and an identification with human suffering, still provides the core images, the foundation, from which contemporary photographers draw to picture life today.'

Spanning the years 1898 to 2001, New York: Capital of Photography charts the shifting impulses in picture-making that coincided with years of dynamic economic growth or recession, social turmoil or political uncertainty. Emblematic of the century's first decade, the work of Lewis Hine is represented in the exhibition by three stirring photographs that illuminate the faces of immigrant New Yorkers finding their bearing in adverse conditions. Hine is seen as the first of many photographers who have viewed the city as a crucial testing ground for the promise of democracy, and as inspiration not only for later documentary photographers, like those in the socially conscious Photo League of the 1940s, but for succeeding generations.

Following Weegee's paparazzo flash and Lisette Model?x2019;s rough, grainy portraits of the 1940s, and continuing through the urban panache of Leonard Freed and William Klein in the 1950s to the edgy forays of Nan Goldin, Larry Fink, and Sylvia Plachy today, New York: Capital of Photography characterizes New York photography during the second half of the century as a time of sustained and fascinated, rather than solicitous, involvement with people of ethnic, racial or sexual difference.

As a coda to the concluding section of New York: Capital of Photography, The Jewish Museum has added an image of a Lower Manhattan cityscape rendered empty and ashen in wake of the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Jeff Mermelstein's large-scale color photograph focuses on the stark unreality of a bronze statue of a seated businessman, the figure depicted frozen, and, except for a covering of dust and leaves, unfazed.

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