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Met Breuer, The

Diane Arbus
- Additional Information -

Excerpt from The Met Breuer:

Diane Arbus: In the Beginning
Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - Sunday, November 27, 2016
Exhibition Overview

This landmark exhibition will feature more than 100 photographs that together redefine Diane Arbus (American, 1923–1971), one of the most influential and provocative artists of the 20th century. It will focus on the first seven years of her career, from 1956 to 1962, the period in which she developed the idiosyncratic style and approach for which she has been recognized praised, criticized, and copied the world over.

Arbus made most of her photographs in New York City, where she lived and died, and where she worked in locations such as Times Square, the Lower East Side, and Coney Island. Her photographs of children and eccentrics, couples and circus performers, female impersonators and Fifth Avenue pedestrians are among the most intimate and surprising images of the era.

The majority of the photographs in the exhibition have never before been seen and are part of the Museums Diane Arbus Archive, acquired in 2007 by gift and promised gift from the artists daughters, Doon Arbus and Amy Arbus. It was only when the archive came to The Met that this remarkable early work came to be fully explored. Arbus’s creative life in photography after 1962 is well documented and already the stuff of legend now, for the first time, we can properly examine its origins.

Accompanied by a catalogue

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Excerpt from Diane Arbus: Revelations, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [Exhibition 03/08-05/30/2005]:

Diane Arbus (née Nemerov) first began making pictures in the early 1940s, and she continued to take photographs on her own while partnering with her husband, Allan Arbus, in a fashion photography business. She studied photography with Berenice Abbott in the 1940s and Alexey Brodovitch in the mid-1950s, but it was in Lisette Models photographic workshop in the late 1950s that Arbus found her greatest inspiration and began seriously pursuing the work for which she has come to be known.

Her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960. During the next decade, working for Esquire, Harpers Bazaar, and other magazines, she published more than one hundred photographs, including portraits and photographic essays, some of which originated as personal projects, and occasionally were accompanied by her own writing.

In 1962—apparently searching for greater clarity in her images and for a more direct relationship with the people she was photographing—Arbus began to turn away from the 35mm camera favored by most of the documentary photographers of her era. She started working with a square-format (2-1/4-inch twin lens reflex) camera and began making portraits marked by a formal, classical style that has since been recognized as a distinctive feature of her work. Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962, Retired man and his wife at home in a nudist camp one morning, N.J. 1963, and a virtually unknown work, Girl on a stoop with baby, N.Y.C. 1962—all on view in the exhibition—are early examples of Arbus’s use of this technique.

Arbus was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 for her project "American Rites, Manners and Customs." She augmented her images of New York and New Jersey with visits to Pennsylvania, Florida, and California, photographing contests and festivals as well as public and private rituals. "I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present because we tend while living here and now to perceive only what is random and barren and formless about it," she wrote. "While we regret that the present is not like the past and despair of its ever becoming the future, its innumerable, inscrutable habits lie in wait for their meaning....These are our symptoms and our monuments. I want simply to save them, for what is ceremonious and curious and commonplace will be legendary."

Although her work appeared in only a few group shows during her lifetime, her photographs generated a good deal of critical and popular attention. The boldness of her subject matter and the photographic approach were recognized as revolutionary. In the 1960s, Arbus taught photography at Parsons School of Design, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Cooper Union, and continued to make pictures in accordance with her evolving vision.

Continued, Diane Arbus: Revelations, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Additional Information

Diane Arbus: Related Links on Art in Context


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Diane Arbus, American, (1923-1971)
b. March 14, 1923, New York, NY
d. 1971

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