Published: February 21, 2012
“Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964” will be on view at the de Young Museum’s Fisher Family Gallery March 3⁊une 3.
In the summer of 1964, San Francisco was ground zero for a historic culture clash as the site of both the 28th Republican National Convention (the “Goldwater Convention”) and the launch of The Beatles’ first North American tour.
The young photographer Arthur Tress arrived at this opportune moment in the city’s history and found himself in the midst of large-scale civil rights demonstrations and chaotic political pageantry. With a sensibility attuned to this quirky metropolis, he set about to capture the odd spectacle of San Francisco.
More than 70 photographs included in this exhibition range from public gatherings to impromptu street portraits, views of the peculiar contents of shop windows and commercial signs. This is the first museum exhibition of a virtually unknown body of Tress’s early work.
Curator James Ganz explains, “This exhibition offers an evocative time capsule of the City by the Bay and makes a fascinating contribution to the region’s rich photographic legacy.”
The subject matter of “Arthur Tress” breaks down into three broad categories: public gatherings, including civil rights and political rallies; portrait studies of San Franciscans; and views of shop windows, commercial signs and architectural fragments. Often these categories overlap.
In photographing events such as the Auto Row demonstrations, Tress was interested in recording passive bystanders, as well as active participants. His candid images of spectators lining the streets of San Francisco, whether isolated or in groups, capture the distinctive fashions, expressions and body language of the era. The frequent incursions of commercial logos and signage add to the contemporary flavor of the photographs, effectively fixing time and place.
The exhibition captures the flavor of San Francisco without featuring its most familiar monuments. Tress’s approach to the city was idiosyncratic, generally avoiding popular tourist sites such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown, while favoring mundane locales like laundromats and coffee shops.
Ganz observes, “Tress is a photographer of people rather than landmarks. Given the option of pointing his lens at an attraction like Coit Tower or at a tourist observing the monument, he will always favor the human element over the architectural setting.”
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and curated by Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts.
The de Young Museum is in Golden Gate Park at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive. For information, 415-750-3600 or www.deyoungmuseum.org .
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