Art, Exhibitions and Installations

Garry Winogrand’s Scenes of Ebulliance, and Unease

Winogrand’s photographs capture “America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl” after World War II. Co-published with Zócalo Public Square.

Coney Island, New York. c. 1952. Gelatin silver print, 8 11/16 x 12 15/16" (22 x 33 cm). Purchase and gift of Barbara Schwartz in memory of Eugene M. Schwartz. Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Coney Island, New York. c. 1952. Garry Winogrand. Gelatin silver print, 8 11/16 x 12 15/16″ (22 x 33 cm). Purchase and gift of Barbara Schwartz in memory of Eugene M. Schwartz. Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Open Art: The Getty and Zocalo

If hashtags had existed right after World War II, America’s would’ve been #winning.

Besides emerging victorious from the deadliest war in history and demonstrating American might to Europe and Asia, the country’s economic engine was roaring as more and more Americans joined a prospering middle class. They had disposable income with which they bought cars, traveled, and embraced their cities’ glittering nightlife.

Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image copyright Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 1969. Garry Winogrand. Image copyright Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

That ebullient froth of post-war American life bubbles up in the photographs of Garry Winogrand, currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. But his photographs rarely strike a note of optimism without some hint of unease—the difficulty of maintaining the “good life,” the sense that it was out of reach for many, uncertainty about the roles of African-Americans, women, and returning veterans in a changing society.

Winogrand, who was born in 1928 and died in 1984, took in all of it through a camera lens. His pictures share a democratic spirit similar to that of the 19th-century poet Walt Whitman, who sang of “America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl.”

John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960, Garry Winogrand. Image copyright Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960, Garry Winogrand. Image copyright Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Winogrand “used his camera to show the parade of national experience,” said Jeff Rosenheim, curator in charge of the museum’s department of photographs. “He was a collector, like Whitman, of experiences.”

Some critics considered Winogrand’s pictures “shapeless” in form because he often included 20 or 30 figures, featured tilted horizons, or showed sub-events happening at the margins. But this inclusiveness was a stylistic choice, said Rosenheim, who was once Winogrand’s student.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1957, Garry Winogrand. Image copyright Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1957, Garry Winogrand. Image copyright Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

“I think there is this anxiety in the pictures that suggests something else is going on, which was pervasive in the culture at the time,” Rosenheim said. “It’s self-evident in the out-of-control-ness that he allows into his pictures and how they don’t seem to have a center.”

One of Rosenheim’s favorite images shows several women walking down the street at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles. The light comes from behind them, bouncing off of storefronts, creating a geometric pattern of beams and shadows. A man is hunched over in a wheelchair in the shadows to the left, and a cluster of people waiting for the bus is on the right. The camera’s gaze doesn’t include pity, just an observation of all the types of people that can all be thrown together on a street in Los Angeles.

New York, 1965, Garry Winogrand. Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

New York, 1965, Garry Winogrand. Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

The Winogrand retrospective runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 21. It was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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      It’s been 125 years since Van Gogh’s death, today we celebrate his life’s work.


      5 Ways to See Van Gogh’s Irises

      Through observations, visitor conversations, and some sneaky eavesdropping, we’ve compiled the top 5 ways people enjoy this painting.

      1. In a Crowd
        One of the most obvious ways that people see the painting is in a crowd. The gallery is almost always filled, and you might have to wait before you can get up close. The anticipation builds as you start in the back row, and slowly move until you are close enough to see the brushstrokes of Van Gogh’s thick paint.

      2. Online
        David from Colorado said that this was his first visit, but he had already seen the painting online. In addition to being available through the Getty’s Open Content program, the painting is often seen on social media. Just search #irises on Instagram for a taste of the painting’s popularity. 

      3. Alone
        If you arrive right at 10 a.m. when the museum opens, the quiet gallery provides a perfect backdrop to really examine the painting. Solitude and seclusion gives the gallery a sense of intimacy. 

      4. Multiple Times
        Repeat visits can give rise to multiple interpretations. Is it a melancholy or joyous painting? Expressive or depressive? 

      5. Internationally
        Visitors from all across the world viewed this famous Van Gogh. In just one hour you can hear multiple languages—French, Italian, Chinese, Korean, German, and more. Irises seems to rise above cultural boundaries—a Dutch painting inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints—to strike an emotional resonance amongst all viewers. 

      What is your favorite lens to view Van Gogh’s work through? 

      07/29/15

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