Bruce Museum

Greenwich, CT

(203) 869-0376


Brett Weston in New York

October 1, 1999 through November 18, 1999


The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science presents Brett Weston in New York from October 1, 1999 through November 18, 1999. Featuring over seventy black-and-white prints, the exhibition features the work of Brett Weston (1911-1993), the respected American modernist photographer. The prints provide visitors with a window into this brilliant artist's wartime imagery of New York City from late 1943 to 1945. (left: Rooftop, New York City, 1944, gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches, Courtesy of The Brett Weston Archive from The Christian Keesee Collection)

It was predictable that Brett Weston would become an accomplished photographer. As a young man Brett was taught by his father, the renowned photographer Edward Weston, and Tina Modotti , while in Mexico. At his father's side, he began making photographs that astonished audiences when they were first exhibited in the 1920s. By the time he was a teenager, he was producing work that rivaled that of his father, and it was assumed that his photographic career would be equally stellar. The elder Weston once remarked that his son Brett was "doing better work at fourteen than I did at thirty."

Drafted in 1941, Brett Weston was assigned to a photographic unit of the Army's Signal Corps stationed in Astoria, Queens. By this time he had been a photographer for nearly two decades and had already exhibited his work at the prestigious avant-garde Film und Foto show in Stuttgart, Germany. He was also known for his architectural photography, having created a number of notable panoramas of San Francisco. (right: Nancy Newhall's Rooftop, New York City, 1945, gelatin silver print, 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches, Courtesy of The Brett Weston Archive from The Christian Keesee Collection)

In the service, Weston was under the command of Arthur Rothstein, a well-known Farm Security Administration and Look magazine photographer, who charged him with photographing New York City. Upon completing his assignments, Weston was free to explore the city's endless visual resources on his own, and the photographs made during this period remain fresh and revealing documents.

It was during this time that Weston perfected his craft in evocative studies of the rooftops, towers, doorways, fences, streets, and bridges of a bustling metropolis. With his notoriously precisionist style, large-format cameras - the cumbersome 8" x 10" and 11" x 14" view cameras were his tools of choice - and exquisite contact printing method, Weston captured details of city life that went unnoticed in other documentarists' pictures.

In photographs such as Brooklyn Bridge, for example, the photographer's democratic technique captures the specific characteristics of the bridge, along with a whole universe of supporting details that make for an incredibly rich evocation of the urban fabric. Here and there in the photographs are familiar glimpses of classic New York - stationary delivery trucks, chaotic signage, the Chrysler building in the distance beyond jumbled rooftops. But, more importantly, each image displays a formalist's love of structure, pattern, and form in the city's often random juxtaposition of architectural styles, textures, and materials.

Brett Weston in New York focuses on an important transitional period for the photographer, a time when he refined and expanded his approach to photography, preparing him for the diverse subjects he would later document in exotic locales around the world.

Instead of stepping forward to embrace his celebrity as the son of Edward Weston, Brett Weston chose a quieter life, dedicating himself to a relentlessly individual pursuit of his art. Enormously prolific, he was, however, highly selective about what he exhibited during his lifetime. Today, numerous prints in the care of the Brett Weston Archive from the Christian Keesee Collection represent a lifetime in photography that are only now beginning to be assessed.

Brett Weston in New York is originated and circulated by Curatorial Assistance, Inc., Los Angeles, and is curated by Jon Burris. All works are courtesy of The Brett Weston Archive from The Christian Keesee Collection. The exhibition is on view in the Museum's Bantle Lecture Gallery. On certain dates viewing hours may be limited due to public programs taking place in the Gallery. Please call ahead for hours. The exhibition is sponsored by The Chase Manhattan Corporation.

Read more about the Bruce Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/26/10

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