The current exhibition of ‘American Classics’ at Pace Gallery is stunning. The show displays the photographs of artists whose careers began in the USA shortly after the close of the two world wars. The black and white documentary style images present an historical snapshot of American culture and politics in a striking and moving display.
Much of the work on show resonates with the current state of America today, especially in Diane Arbus’s Patriotic young man with a flag, N.Y.C. from 1967 – an image of a figure that could easily blend in with contemporary media following the results of the recent U.S. presidential election.
I was most looking forward to seeing images from Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. However, it was Harry Callahan’s work that really left an impression on me. Callahan’s career spun six decades. His seemingly mundane images of building facades and trees are breathtaking. Among his prints on show are also portraits and a striking photograph that has made use of repeated double exposure to capture the movement of busy traffic.
Other memorable photographs on display include Garry Winograd’s image of an elephant, lying over a wall, with his trunk seemingly reaching out to human hands, that are lying in the corner of the picture. There are also a pair of images of a blonde woman, with her face turned away from the camera. In one picture she looks as though she is in a movie theatre, while the adjacent print shows her frolicking nude into the sea.
American Classics is on display at Pace until 17 December