Friday, May 05, 2006

Cherishing What Persists: the Photography of John Szarkowski

I was lucky enough to clock out a bit early yesterday, so I headed up to MoMA primarily to catch the Munch show. While the show was nice, the paintings haunting... the experience just didn't live up to expectations. Perhaps because I was more interested in seeing wood cuts and prints, perhaps dealing with crowds, perhaps the heaviness of the pallet was too dissonant with the brightness of the day.

There were a couple pieces that made clear the challenge of painting before the use of photographs. One in particular, when Munch had an eye disease, really seems to communicate on canvas what was experienced in his mind's eye.

As often, the real treat is in being surprised. This time it was seeing
John Szarkowski's photographs, particularly of the Midwest. There was nice contrast of pastoral, but settled composition that felt set in time and a number of wilderness landscapes, many near or part of the what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Some pictures are much like my own, particularly dawn breaking on one lake with a lingering mist over the water. But for those less inclined to portage, these are more accessible and better composed.

Pictured above: John Szarkowski. From Country Elevator, Red River Valley. 1957.


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