Friday, January 08, 2010

Diane Arbus at the Fraenkel Gallery

fraenkel galleryFraenkel Gallery
Diane Arbus: Christ in a lobby and Other Unknown or Almost Known Works
Selected by Robert Gober
7 January - 6 March 2010

This excellent show of photographs by Diane Arbus cleverly opens with a drawing by curator Robert Gober, in which we can just make out the famous twins cover of her Aperture monograph. That twins photo is too well known to be here, but there is another photograph of two women in curlers standing on a New York sidewalk & looking oddly identical. Many of the photos on display similarly remind me of canonical Diane Arbus images: children in the park, nudists, circus performers, babies in terrifying closeup. I can even recognize subjects from other photographs, such as the Young woman with her child, camera, coat & handbag, Bronx, N.Y. (1965).

Thematically similar photos seem to be scattered throughout the galleries instead of being grouped. This results in some shocking juxtapositions, such as the deathbed photo sandwiched between 2 pictures of circus performers. I loved the humor of many of the works, such as one showing the winners of a muscle man contest posing in victory, apparently for an audience of one little boy. The Woman in Floppy Hat (1970), standing on a curb in headgear that is both large & shapeless, manages to be both funny & a bit unsettling. The Peace Marchers, N.J. (1962), striding across the horizon, silhouetted against a cloudy sky, look like the final shot from The Seventh Seal.

It's a treat to learn that most of the prints were done by Arbus herself. It's surprising that most are also unpublished, as they seem in no way inferior or unrepresentative. The exhibit checklist does not include prices, so one imagines that these images are indeed special.

The Fraenkel Gallery felt like a happening place when I visited at lunch time today. I'm pretty sure that the eponymous Mr. Fraenkel acknowledged me with a quick "hi" on his way through the gallery, & I overheard the receptionist announce a call from Lee Friedlander.

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