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Radical Vision: The Revolution in American Photography

January 14 - May 28, 2006


(above: Louis Faurer ,Eddie on Third Avenue at 52nd Street, NY, NY, 1948/1980, gelatin silver print on paper, H. 14 x W. 11 inches, David Sestak Family Collection)


The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown is proud to announce Radical Vision: The Revolution in American Photography, on view at the Doylestown location from January 14 through May 28, 2006.  This exhibition will explore the radical changes in American photography from the late 1940s through the late-1970s from the work of the best-known photographers of the time, as well as some important figures whose work deserves to be better known. (right: Allen Ginsberg ,Jack Kerouac, 1953/1990s, gelatin silver print on paper, H. 20 x W. 16 inches, David Sestak Family Collection)

The decades after the Second World War were a time of incredible growth and change in the American photography scene. Parallel to the rise of Abstract Expressionism, American photography in the post-war years was marked by innovation and discovery and, like Abstract Expressionism, it made the United States the center of the art world in photography. 

John Szarkowski from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City recognized and championed photographers from Robert Frank to Diane Arbus, from Lee Friedlander to Gary Winogrand, whose work is featured in this exhibition.  In 1967, Arbus, Friedlander, and Winogrand all had work mounted in the New Documents show at the Museum of Modern Art. These photographers questioned the old social order to expose racism and alienation in our midst, and the old esthetic order in photography. These photographers challenged the domination of the sharply focused print that exhibited a full range of tones from white through gray to black, championed by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. They explored oblique framing, radical cropping, and the use of the natural grain of the film, extreme close-ups, and subject matter that ranged from the dispossessed to the freakish to the oddly normal in American society.

The exhibition consists of 71 images from 16 photographers drawn from the collection of David Sestak, and curated by the noted area photographer, critic, and editor Stephen Perloff. Sestak is a photographer and collector of Post War American street photography. His photography is published in national magazines and exhibited in galleries in the Mid-Atlantic States. Perloff is the founder and editor of The Photo Review and editor of The Photograph Collector. His photographs have appeared in numerous exhibitions and private collections.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971), born in New York City, was one of the most original and influential American artists of the 20th century.  Arbus's photographs document people living on the fringe of social acceptance, and harshly portray the cracks in "normal" people's public masks.  "Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. From a reference on her photographs of society's "freaks," Arbus said,  "These people were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."

Robert Frank (b.1924), a Swiss-born photographer, has had an extraordinary influence on photography.  Frank became one of the photographers to document the bohemian subculture of the 1950s and 60s through the publication of his photographs in The Americans. In the words of Beat poet Jack Kerouac, "Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world."

Gary Winogrand (1928-1984), born in New York City, created photojournalistic shots of disturbing moments, which won him acclaim as an important chronicler of contemporary American life. He worked exclusively with small-format cameras and available light to capture telling moments in a casual, "uncomposed" manner. His use of wide-angle lenses and tilted framing creates images both satirical and disturbing.

Lee Friedlander (b. 1934), born in Aberdeen, Washington, known for dense and often visually witty black-and-white streetscape views of the American scene. Characteristically filled with shadows or reflections, they frequently reveal the alienation and complexity of modern life. (left: Lee Friedlander ,Route 9 W, New York, 1969/1990s, gelatin silver print on paper, H. 11 x W. 14 inches, Collection of David Sestak, Image Courtesy of the Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco)

In connection with the exhibition, the Museum will present a number of programs including the lecture Curator's Exhibition Lecture, on Tuesday, February 7, from 1 to 2 pm, presented by guest curator Stephen Perloff.  On Tuesday, February 28, from 1 to 2 pm the Museum presents Meet the Collector: David Sestak, an informal gallery tour of the exhibition. 

In addition, there will be a video screening of "Masters of Photography: Diane Arbus" and "Fire in the East: A Portrait of Robert Frank" on Sunday, March 5, at 3 pm with introductory remarks by Stephen Perloff. "Masters of Photography: Diane Arbus" is a fascinating, 30 minute, out-of-print documentary which explores Arbus' work and ideas in her own words, spoken by a close friend who narrates her pictures."Fire in the East; A Portrait of Robert Frank" is an award-winning, 28 minute documentary which presents an intimate view of four decades of Frank's life, films, and photographs, including interviews with many of his collaborators and contemporaries, including Emile de Antonio, Allen Ginsberg, Walter Gutman, June Leaf, Jonas Mekas, Duane Michals, John Szarkowski, and Rudy Wurlitzer.

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