Constantin Brancusi, Mlle. Pogany I, e. 1920/1930, Gelatin silver print, 9-1/2 x 6-3/4".
Herman Leonard, Ben Webster, New York City, 1950, Gelatin silver print, 13-7/8 x 12-1/2".
55 Mill Street,
Presence of Portraits
February 2-April 27, 2008
The exhibition provides the public with an opportunity to see 80 original prints by some of the greatest photographers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Showcasing images of npted writers, musicians and artists, the exhibit examines portraiture as a representation of identity, with a particular focus on the emergence of modernism in 1920s and 1930s Europe.
The show explores how women have continually used photography to challenge the conventional representations of femininity. Incorporating aspects of masquerade, as with Sophie Tauber Arp’s Self-portrait Behind her Dada head, and the transformative aspects of gender, as in the Claude Cahun's Portrait of Suzanne Malherbe, several works here explore the possibilities of self-definition through photography. Contemporary works by artists Lori Newdick and Barbara Astman play with the same issues of gender, self-representation and feminine stereotypes. Ttraditional forms of self-portraiture are obscured, as in mirrored portraits of Ilse Bing and Florence Henri, and distorted, as in a fragmented close-up of Dora Maar, an artist in her own right, ong in the shadow of her famous lover Picasso.
Presence of Portraits provides an overview of several other fields of 20th century photography. The glamour and elegance of mid-century fashion photography is on display in the works of Richard Avedon, Erwin Blumenfeld and Francesco Scavullo. Arbiters of taste and well connected to the worlds of celebrity, fashion and art, contemporary photographers Steven Meisel and Sarah Moon redefine the boundaries of fashion photography with complex, arresting images.
Masters of 20th century modernism are represented with a bold, formal portrait of Imogen Cunningham by Edward Weston, uniquely distorted images by André Kertész and the social documentary works of Paul Strand. Documentary photography finds contemporary expression with the work of Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Nic. Aluf. Studio Self-Portrait with Dada-Kopf (Dada Head), 1920; photograph; gelatin silver print, 8 3/4 in. x 6 1/4 in. (22.23 cm x 15.88 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Fractional and promised gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein; © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
Sarah Moon, Teresa Stewart for Issey Miyake, 1995, Color pigment print from Polaroid negative, 74 x 57 cm.