Art, Art & Archives, 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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      #ProvenancePeek: Titian in Boston

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      Portrait of a Man Holding a Book, in the collection of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, is no exception. The MFA carefully details the painting’s Italian provenance on its collection page, but the path of this object even since then is complex.

      Between 1901 and 1907, Portrait of a Man Holding a Book entered the stock of no less than three galleries, purchased from the Italian family who owned it first by Agnew’s in London, then by Trotti in Paris, and then by Cottier in New York (marking its movement from the Old World to the New). A collector purchased it from Cottier, and the painting was held privately for 36 years.

      That collector was Frederick Bayley Pratt (1865–1945), son of Charles Pratt, oil magnate and founder of the Brooklyn Institute that bears his family’s name (incidentally, this writer’s alma mater!). 

      The Knoedler Gallery dealt frequently with members of the Pratt family. A quick peek into the searchable database of Knoedler’s stock books turns up nine instances in which a Pratt (Charles and Mary, Frederick’s parents, or Herbert and John, his brothers) bought works, as well as five instances where they sold works. This Titian portrait is one of those instances. Frederick Pratt sold the work to Knoedler in early April of 1943, and by the 10th, it had been snapped up by the Museum of Fine Arts.

      Knoedler shared the sale with Pinakos, an art-dealing concern owned and operated by Rudolf J. Heinemann. Purchasing works in tandem with other dealers was a widespread practice amongst powerful art galleries of the time; nearly 6,000 records in the Knoedler database had joint ownership.

      The stock books of the Knoedler Gallery have recently been transformed into a searchable database that anyone can query for free. You can find this Titian under stock number A2555.

      Portrait of a Man Holding a Book, about 1540, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio). Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Charles Potter Kling Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; stock and sales books documenting the painting’s sale by M. Knoedler & Co.

      _______

      ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archive at the Getty Research Institute.

      04/29/16

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