William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled (Sumner, Mississippi, Cassidy Bayou in Background), 1971, Dye-transfer print, 36.8 x 55.5 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.283), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, and Elizabeth S. and Robert J. Fisher Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled, 1971, Dye-transfer print, 31.1 x 47.7 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.300), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Elizabeth S. and Robert J. Fisher Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Pioneering Color and the Sensibilities of Place

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled (Louisiana), 1980, Dye-transfer print, 30.2 x 45.3 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.301), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, and Elizabeth S. and Robert J. Fisher Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi), 1980, Dye-transfer print, 29.6 x 45.5 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.301), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jennifer and Philip Maritz Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

 

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
212-535-7710
New York
Howard Gilman Gallery, 852
At War with the Obvious:
Photographs by William Eggleston

February 26-July 28, 2013

American photographer William Eggleston (born 1939) emerged in the early 1960s as a pioneer of modern color photography. Now, 50 years later, he is arguably its greatest exemplar. At War with the Obvious: Photographs by William Eggleston presents the work of this idiosyncratic artist, whose influences are drawn from disparate if surprisingly complementary sources — from Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson in photography to Bach and late Baroque music. Many of Eggleston’s most recognized photographs are lush studies of the social and physical landscape found in the Mississippi delta region that is his home. From this base, the artist explores the awesome and, at times, the raw visual poetics of the American vernacular.

The exhibition celebrates the fall 2012 acquisition of 36 dye transfer prints by Eggleston that dramatically expanded the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of this major American artist’s work. It added the entire suite of Eggleston’s remarkable first portfolio of color photographs, 14 Pictures (1974), 15 superb prints from his landmark book, William Eggleston’s Guide (1976), and seven other key photographs that span his career.

Eggleston wrote that he was “at war with the obvious,” a statement well-represented in works such as Untitled [Peaches!] (1970) — a roadside snapshot of rocks and half-eaten fruit thrown atop a sunlit corrugated tin roof capped with a sign announcing “PEACHES!” The exhibition features a number of the artist’s signature images, including Untitled [Greenwood, Mississippi] (1980), a study that takes full advantage of the chromatic intensity of the dye-transfer color process that, until Eggleston appropriated it in the 1960s, had been used primarily by commercial photographers for advertising product photography; and Untitled [Memphis] (1970), an iconic study of a child’s tricycle seen from below. It was the cover image of the artist’s seminal book William Eggleston’s Guide, which accompanied his show at Museum of Modern Art in 1976.

At War with the Obvious: Photographs by William Eggleston is organized by Jeff Rosenheim, Curator in Charge in the Department of Photographs at Metropolitan Museum of Art.

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled, 1983, Dye-transfer print, 37 x 56 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.299), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, and Ellen and Gary Davis Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled (Mississippi), ca. 1970, Dye-transfer print, 25.1 x 38.3 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.297), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jennifer and Philip Maritz Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled (Memphis), 1970, Dye-transfer print, 30.7 x 43.8 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.281), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Louis V. Bell Fund; Elizabeth S. and Robert J. Fisher, Jennifer and Philip Maritz, and Charlotte A. and William E. Ford Gifts, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Untitled (Memphis), 1971, Dye-transfer print, 55.4 x 36.8 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012.285), Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, and Charlotte A. and William E. Ford Gift, 2012, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Untitled, c. 1975, Dye transfer print, 16 x 20", Cheim & Read, New York, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Prophet of Color in Contemporary Photography

William Eggleston, Video still from Stranded in Canton, c.1973-74.

William Eggleston, Untitled, 1965-68 and 1972-74, from Los Alamos, 2003, Dye transfer print, 17-¾ x 12, Private collection, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Morton, Mississippi, c. 1969-70, from William Eggleston’s Guide, 1976, Dye transfer print, 20-9/16 x 13-3/8", Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Untitled, 1965-68 and 1972-74, from Los Alamos, 2003, Dye transfer print, 17-¾ x 12", Private collection, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

 

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
at 75th Street
New York
800-944-8639
William Eggleston: Democratic Camera – Photographs and Video, 1961-2008
November 7, 2008-January 25, 2009

Nearly 50 years of extraordinary image-making by the photographer William Eggleston will be presented in a major retrospective, William Eggleston: Democratic Camera — Photographs and Video, 1961-2008.

Organized by the Whitney in association with Haus der Kunst, Munich, the exhibition is the most comprehensive yet devoted to Eggleston in this country. It is co-curated by Elisabeth Sussman, Whitney curator and Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, and Thomas Weski, deputy director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, where the show travels (February 20-May 17, 2009), following its Whitney debut.

William Eggleston: Democratic Camera traces the artist’s evolution from the beginnings of his career some 50 years ago to the present day, and includes more than 150 photographs, some never-before-exhibited, as well as the artist’s rarely screened video diary of his legendary nocturnal wanderings, Stranded in Canton. A key figure in American photography, Eggleston, who was born in 1939 in Memphis, is credited with almost single-handedly ushering in the era of color photography.

The psychological intensity of the saturated color in Eggleston’s pictures has had an enormous impact on the entire field of photography; as an influence, Eggleston has cited the Technicolor technique in the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Co-curator Elisabeth Sussman notes, “Eggleston’s sense of color and composition is impeccable. His work is marked by a deep concern with equal consideration and evenhanded treatment of all his subjects. He knows and loves his terrain: the new supermarkets, sidewalks, driveways, patios, shiny cars, dinner settings, gas stations, and houses of the middle class, the interiors of elegant old Southern homes, the bars and their habitués. He captures landscape and architecture in unexpected ways — for instance his famous view upwards to the ceiling in a red room, or the empty space of a green tiled bathroom. And, importantly, Eggleston, though not a portraitist in a traditional sense, has a cool, but not uncomplicated view of the people he often photographs in these environments.”

The show begins with Eggleston’s early black-and-white photographs and covers his groundbreaking shift to color and his dye transfer work of the early 1970s.

Highlights from the last 20 years include selections from the Graceland series and The Democratic Forest, Eggleston’s anthology of the quotidian. An unparalleled chronicler of the American South, Eggleston has produced a veritable encyclopedia of the Southern vernacular. His focus has been primarily upon his native locales of Memphis, New Orleans, and the Mississippi River Delta, although his commissioned projects have taken him all over the world.

In the mid-1970s, Eggleston became famous as a photographer. His color photographs, printed in the rich dye transfer medium, were recognized by The Museum of Modern Art’s curator John Szarkowski, who showed them in 1976 in a historic and controversial exhibition at the museum. With this one-person show and the accompanying book, William Eggleston’s Guide, Eggleston emerged as the first color photographer of note in America, the first to make color an issue in an art photography context.

His snapshot-like trademark is an intuitive response to a fleeting configuration of elements in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom he greatly admired and in whose credo of The Decisive Moment he found a counterpart to his own work. Co-curator Thomas Weski writes, “In many of his early pictures, the observer gets the feeling that Eggleston composed the photograph only roughly and accepted everything that fell within the established frame.

This approach led to prints that integrated the unpredictable into the picture and thus accepted the stroke of chance. For Eggleston, everything in front of the camera was basically worthy of a picture.”

The exhibition includes Eggleston’s cult video work, Stranded in Canton. Eggleston and a friend had begun using film to document Fred McDowell, a well-known Delta blues musician, but they ultimately abandoned the film project. Eggleston later acquired a video camera and began using video to shoot in bars and in people's homes; sometimes he shot monologues of friends delivered for his video camera, most often at night. The result, “Stranded in Canton,” recently rediscovered and re-edited, is a portrait of a woozy subculture that adds dimension and texture to the world of Eggleston’s color photographs. As Sussman writes, “Though the epic, multi-episodic project Stranded in Canton cannot be described as a nocturnal work in its entirety, its mood is nonetheless established by the fact that many episodes were shot late at night. It is thus in contrast to the well-known color work, where the powers of color and light are absolutely keyed to Eggleston’s daytime vision. In his video work, the photographer was able to give visual shape to a demimonde in which he was both participant and observer.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue that provides new insight into the ways in which Eggleston’s photography has influenced generations of American artists, filmmakers, writers, and public perceptions of art. It includes essays by co-curators Elisabeth Sussman and Thomas Weski; Whitney Chief Curator and Associate Director of Programs Donna De Salvo; Senior Curatorial Assistant Tina Kukielski; and noted American music journalist Stanley Booth. The publication includes an illustrated chronology, checklist of the exhibition, list of publications, selected exhibition history, selected bibliography, and index. It is co-distributed by Yale University Press.

Elisabeth Sussman, Whitney curator and the Museum’s Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, recently curated the Whitney’s exhibition Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure. Her latest photography project was 2003-04 Diane Arbus: Revelations, the first retrospective of the highly influential photographer since 1972; it opened at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), then traveled to Metropolitan Museum of Art, and elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, including Victoria & Albert Museum in London. She is currently organizing a Whitney exhibition on Paul Thek.

Thomas Weski is deputy director of Haus der Kunst, Munich. As chief curator there from 2003 to 2008, his exhibitions included Andreas Gursky (2007); Click Doubleclick — The Documentary Factor (2006, in cooperation with Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels); and Robert Adams: Turning Back, which received the 2005 Deutsche Börse Award. Formerly, Weski was chief curator at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where he was curator of the traveling exhibition William Eggleston: Los Alamos (2003); co-curator with Emma Dexter of Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph (2003, co-organized with Tate Modern, London); and co-curator with Heinz Liesbrock of How You Look at It: Photographs of the Twentieth Century (2000).

William Eggleston, Untitled, 1975, Dye transfer print, 16 x 20", Cheim & Read, New York, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Untitled, 1965-68 and 1972-74, from Los Alamos, 2003, Dye transfer print, 16 x 20, Collection of Emily Fisher Landau, © Eggleston Artistic Trust.