Galerie Fraenkel – Spotlight – Artforum International


What is important to know is that you never know. You’re still kind of groped. —Diane Arbus

The Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of 45 photographs by Diane Arbus, curated by the famous contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems. A long-time admirer of Arbus’s work, Weems selected images spanning Arbus’s fifteen-year career, from 1956 until his death in 1971. The exhibition will be on view at 49 Geary Street from June 3 to August 13. 2021, and will be followed by an exhibition dedicated to Weems’ work in September.

Weems cited Arbus, as well as David Hammons, as artists of paramount importance to her. To inaugurate the recently announced performance of Weems by the Fraenkel Gallery, the artist was asked to organize an exhibition of Arbus photographs, the only directive being to focus on works that speak powerfully and directly to him.

Weems’ selection begins with a single preliminary image from 1945, in which Arbus stands in front of a mirror, pregnant with her first child. We then move on to 1956 when, at 33, Arbus consciously began his career as an artist. The exhibition presents three photographs from 1956, of which Carroll Baker on screen in “Baby Doll” (with silhouette), NYC 1956 and Kiss from “Baby Doll”, NYC 1956, among several photographs of the show taking place in dark movie theaters.

While the exhibition includes well-known images such as Two boys smoking in Central Park, NYC1963 and A young waitress in a nudist camp, NJ 1963, Weems’ selection focuses mainly on lesser-known works. Among them are Woman making a kissed face, Sammy’s Bowery Follies, NYC 1958, one of Arbus’s first photographs in which she places her camera very close to her subject’s face, and Kenneth Hall, the new Mr. New York City, in a physics competition, NYC 1959, about which Arbus noted, “he can wiggle his chest muscles separately and has developed a muscle in the back of his thighs that no one else has ever developed.” The photographs Weems selected trace the evolution of Arbus’s technique and encompass a wide range of his interests. Subjects depicted include couples, children, crossdressers and female impersonators, nudists, families and celebrities, often photographed in parks, bedrooms, and dance halls, in New York City and elsewhere.

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