Published: January 7, 2016
FORT WORTH, TEXAS — The Amon Carter Museum of American Art has acquired 46 photographs by Brett Weston (1911–1993), one of the most acclaimed American photographers of the Twentieth Century. A generous gift from the Christian Keesee collection, this acquisition enables the Amon Carter to amplify its current holdings of Weston’s photographic strength—vivid, graphically driven abstraction—and add key works from other parts of Weston’s career, including his early San Francisco street views, his wartime work in New York and his heralded late-career Hawaiian plant studies.
Each of the great photographer Edward Weston’s four sons followed in their father’s footsteps as artist-photographers, but Brett was the one who most wholly embraced that path and gained the most renown for his art, thanks in part to his father’s extensive encouragement.
The main core of the gift includes Weston’s abstract photographs created between 1960 and 1971, the period for which the artist is best known today. During these years, under the influence of Abstract Expressionism and his friend Ansel Adams’s successful embrace of increased contrast, Weston willingly heightened the contrast of his photographs and drew attention to the world’s engaging patterns. Yet just as important are key examples from other parts of the photographer’s career, for example his work from the 1930s when he was living in San Francisco and trying to differentiate himself from his father by taking up urban themes.
After being drafted into the Army during World War II, Weston was assigned to the Signal Corps and stationed in Queens, N.Y., under the command of photographer Arthur Rothstein. Rothstein appreciated Weston’s talents and restlessness and gave him simple, quick assignments; Weston took full advantage, working not only with an 8-by-10-inch camera but also experimenting with an 11-by-14-inch view camera.
A 1951 photograph of a plant growing up through a fence and a 1963 image of the Big Sur Coast reveal the continuing hold that West Coast landscape traditions had on Weston. The former could just as well be by Ansel Adams, while the latter mirrors views made by Wynn Bullock and Minor White a decade earlier.
Multiple images in the acquisition reflect Brett Weston’s love for Hawaii. The photographer spent much of the last decade of his life on the island. There, he repeatedly created close-ups of leaves and tropical plants whose inky black rhythms leap forward like musical exclamations of swirling activity.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art is at 3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard. For information, 817-989-5065 or www.cartermuseum.org.
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