Monday, November 2, 2009
Live and Legendary
Californian art lovers are in luck. While San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is the only US venue to hold a retrospective of Richard Avedon's work from 1946 to 2004, Los Angeles' Getty Center hosts the Irving Penn: Small Trades exhibit which focuses on stark portraiture of everyday people. I haven't attended either of these exhibitions but if you're in California,you should definitely plan on doing so before the exhibits kiss their host museums goodbye!
Irving Penn's subjects ranged from models to artists and even to found objects. His sometimes controversial portraits and still-lifes were featured in numerous magazines, but the Getty Center holds one particular series that Penn would revisit over and over.
Small Trades is a series of photographs that show working people in front of Penn's signature smokey backdrop, immersed in lighting that gave dark shadows and silhouettes. The focus is only on the subjects, dressed in their uniform, carrying their work tools. You can't help but notice the emotion and pride (or lack thereof) that these working class figures carry. (1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. Lasts until January 10, 2010. Admission: Free!)
Richard Avedon, known for his pictures of the beautiful and glamorous, had a niche for capturing exuberance and liveliness through his photography. His work often featured the rich and the glamorous, ranging from Dovima to Björk, from Twiggy to The Beatles. He revolutionized fashion photography with subjects that seemed to leap out; Veruschka looks frozen in time as she bounces sideways and Dovima, donning a Dior dress alongside two majestic elephants, appears alive.
Even his photos of posed celebrities emit emotion and tell stories. Marilyn Monroe seems exhausted in thought, Janis Joplin gives out her signature hearty laugh, and The Beatles are contemplative and other-worldly. If you're a fan of the '60s like me, this is definitely an exhibit to attend, but this collection perfectly summarizes Avedon's work, not only restricted to famous figures. As you can tell in his In the American West series, Avedon captured the fabric of America through his portraits of everyday working people. After you see his work in physical form, you'll never see photography in the same way again. (151 Third Street , San Francisco. Lasts until November 29, 2009. SEE IT NOW! Admission: $15 for adults, $9 for students)