Pace London's new exhibition features key works by iconic postwar American photographers, to give an insight into both the country at that time and the image-makers' vision of it
Some of the most influential photographers of the 20th century have been brought together at Pace London, in an exhibition celebrating the diversity of both post-war American and their work. Including images by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Irving Penn, Henry Wessel and Garry Winogrand, American Classics contrasts the various styles these image-makers pioneered to show the US during a period of tumultuous change.
“The idea for the show began with my fascination with Robert Frank, and then I looked to other photographers who excelled at revealing the many sides of American life,” explains Tamara Corm, Senior Director of Pace.
Photographs from Frank’s famous series, The Americans, reveal the multiplicity of life across the nation, shot on the cross-country road trips he took between 1955-56. Revolutionary in both subject matter and style, Frank’s final edit of 83 frames was whittled down from a collection of more than 27,000 images. Wessel, who was greatly influenced by Frank, followed in his tradition, setting out on several road trips across the country. Avoiding idealised views of uninhabited nature, he recorded man’s mark on the American West, and added a trademark element of wit.
Portraits of individuals and groups by Arbus, Avedon, and Penn offer incisive studies of both famous and marginalised Americans, while Winogrand’s seemingly spontaneous pictures defy formal convention to vividly capture the mood of the time.
“My favourite photographer in the exhibition is Callahan, a great mind with a sharp eye for composition, faultless horizon lines and tone,” says Elliot McDonald, Senior Director at Pace. “His unique and prolific exploration of nature as well as urban landscapes reach new levels of abstraction – photography’s answer to contemporaneous minimalist paintings.”
With an eye for eclectic subjects and composition, Callahan shot the natural world, cities, and suburbs; Friedlander focused on the built landscape, revealing an eccentric view of American roadsides and bringing a self-reflective sensibility to his street photography – often quite literally including his own shadow.
Showing off these diverse visions, American Classics gives an insight into both the realities of post-war life and each photographer’s particular perspective on it. “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment,” said Frank in 1961. ” This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough – there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.”
American Classics is on show at Pace London until 17 December 2016. For more, go here.