Published: December 16, 2003
Few artists have had as profound and wide-ranging an impact on their medium as has the photographer Aaron Siskind.
To mark the centenary of his birth in 1903, the Princeton University Art Museum has organized “Aaron Siskind at 100,” an exhibition of 21 works from its permanent collection, which contains one of the largest bodies of Siskind’s vintage prints. The exhibition has been extended through January 4.
Siskind began his artistic career as a member of the Photo-League, an organization devoted to social and documentary photography. In 1944, however, he made a radical change in direction, which he described in the pages of Minicam Photography: “For the first time in my life subject matter, as such, had ceased to be of primary importance. Instead, I found myself involved in the relationships of these objects, so much so that these pictures turned out to be deeply moving and personal experiences.”
While Siskind’s work was to grow increasingly abstract from this point forward, he made no attempt to conceal his subject matter. His are all essentially “straight” photographs – sharply focused, fundamentally unmanipulated slices of the world before his eyes. Although nonnarrative in its structure, Siskind’s imagery suggests both the historical past, found in the revelations of peeling and abraded surfaces, and a dynamic and energetic present that demands the viewers’ attention.
As Peter C. Bunnell, faculty curator of photography emeritus, noted: “His was a pictorial achievement that helped shape a distinctly late modernist American photographic style; one that is characterized by a rigorous adherence to the essential qualities of the medium, and the making of a poetic image that is the subject represented as metaphor, in a specific abstract form, in order to express the inner self – the subconscious common to all men and women.”
The museum is located in the center of the Princeton University campus, next to Prospect House and Gardens. For information, 609-258-3788 or .
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