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Walker Evans Essay

“Even a lay person with no understanding of photography will pick up sufficient signals.The idea here is to capture Evans’s legacy, placing it in context.” His legacy is one of clean, clear images—inspiration to the artists of the American avant-garde.“When working with photos, you are working with real objects,” Meister said.

Meister approached Ann Temkin, Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and they looked at several spaces, including a room next to the European Surrealist galleries.a" data-cycle-paused="true" data-cycle-prev="#gslideshow_prev" data-cycle-next="#gslideshow_next" data-cycle-pager="#gslideshow_pager" data-cycle-pager-template=" " data-cycle-speed="750" data-cycle-caption="#gslideshow_captions" data-cycle-caption-template="" By Roslyn Bernstein A close-cropped view of an old-fashioned barber shop—two swivel chairs, white striped towels hanging on each arm, shaped glass bottles filled with strange liquids on a shelf, a smudged oval mirror, a speckled, plastered wall, newspaper clippings—this is “Negro Barber Shop Interior,” 1936, preserved by photographer Walker Evans, whose sharp vision captured the moment forever. Louis, Missouri in 1903, Evans graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and studied French literature at Williams College; he dropped out after only one year to spend 1926 in Paris, where he became enamored of Eugene Atget’s intimate photographs of Paris and Parisians.Upon his return, Evans was drawn into a lively literary and artistic circle in New York City that included John Cheever, Hart Crane, and Lincoln Kirstein.Meister includes Lincoln Kirstein’s essay on Walker Evans’ “Photographs of Victorian Architecture,” printed in a 1933 Mo MA Bulletin, in a vitrine in the exhibit.There, Kirstein wrote that “Evans’ photographs are such perfect documents that their excellence is not assertive.” Five years later, in the 1938 catalogue essay Kirstein praised Evans’s work for its “purity, or even its Puritanism.” Indeed, to him, the power of Evans’ work “lies in the fact that he so details the effect of circumstances on familiar specimens that the single face, the single house, the single street, strikes with the terrible cumulative force of thousands of faces, houses and streets.” In the end, then, it is the cumulative weight of Evans’ photographic portfolio that is his legacy: The sun-bleached boards of wooden frame houses, an unmade bed seen through a bedroom door, specials of the day posted on a roadside fish stand, the metal rimmed glasses and perfect moustache of the American Legionnaire.Meister points to one of Warhol’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe, visible in the adjacent Gallery 19 and then to Evans’ “Houses and Billboards in Atlanta” (1936), where film legend Carole Lombard’s face appears on a billboard for the romantic comedy .“No matter what you know about art—let’s say you have just been through two or three galleries—you will be struck by a gallery full of photos,” she said.“I love the idea that somebody can look at these pictures and just look,” Meister said.Without a title, we see a photo of a chic black woman, not knowing that the setting is “42nd Street” and, only after turning to the title card, do we realize that an elegantly dressed man in a white suit and a straw hat is a “Citizen in Downtown Havana”, 1932.Her thoughts are on the day’s chores, on the hardship of her life., we’ve spent the last 15 years producing uncompromising journalism.


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