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Origins of Modern Photography at the Met

The work of three giants of 20th-century American photography—Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand—is featured in this powerful exhibit, but if you want to soak up some heady history of photography, hurry---it closes April 10.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from November 10, 2010, through April 10, 2011, in the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand.

The three photographs at the entrance to the show illustrate the style of each of the photographers: the tension in Stieglitz’ closeup of Georgia O’Keefe’s hands, the shadowy mystery in Steichen’s “La Cigale,” and the almost abstract “Pears and Bowls” by Strand. And these three photographs presage what’s to come in the exhibit: a room dedicated the work of each of the artists, so that a visitor gets a thorough sense of each man’s aesthetic.

And yet, the work of the artists is shown as one cohesive show, so that a visitor also sees how the “Photo Secession” movement --- the photographers Steiglitz promoted, exhibited, and published in the early 1900s --- changed from the early work of Steichen, through the work of Stieglitz, developing into the work of Strand.

In addition to holding several of his portraits of O’Keefe, the room dedicated to Stieglitz shows off his urban landscapes of shadow and line, which, with the hindsight of history, can been seen as predicting the early Modernist movement in art. In contrast, the Romantic images of Steichen, some of which are tinted with blue, create a feeling of dreamy realism. Most striking of these is the “Flatiron” series, three prints of varying color and tone, creating, according to the exhibit notes, “by brushing layers of pigmented gum bichromate over platinum prints.” The third room, featuring the work of Paul Strand, is thoroughly Modern, with the evident turn toward abstraction in which Strand boldy uses line and shadow as his subjects.

Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand is complemented by the Museum's concurrent presentation of "Our Future Is In The Air," photographs from the 1910s, an eclectic centennial exhibition that looks at the birth of the modern era through 53 photographs by 30 artists.

And if you want to combine a visit to the Met with a walk across the park to the Whitney Museum, until April 10 you can still catch the Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time exhibit, which also includes some of Strand’s work, and supplements the context for the Metropolitan exhibit.

Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand on view at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art until  April 10, 2011

Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, also closing April 10, 2011.

 (photo: Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946)
Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918
Platinum print
11.7 x 9 cm (4 5/8 x 3 9/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Georgia O'Keeffe, through the generosity of The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation and Jennifer and Joseph Duke, 1997 (1997.61.25))



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