Published: September 27, 2011
The Florence Griswold Museum will present an exhibition that examines the post-Depression-era work of photographer Walker Evans in “The Exacting Eye of Walker Evans,” on view October 1⁊anuary 29.
Evans (1903‱975) captured a place in American social, cultural and artistic history with his unforgettable images of the Great Depression. The photographs launched his career and remain among the most iconic images of American art. His work in ensuing years, however, has been largely overlooked.
This exhibition recovers Evans’s post-Depression work by tracing the thread of his recurring artistic themes, capturing the essence of local identity and discovering the beauty in common things. New research delves into his career and life in Connecticut, where spent decades as a teacher at Yale and resident of Lyme.
Evans sometimes called his work “lyric documentary,” presenting images that purport to be more or less “straight photography,” but which have been captured, edited and printed with a sensitivity to their aesthetic representations. In the guise of a documentarian, he took liberties with his subjects, displaying a keen awareness of the viewer’s experience of his photographs. His purposefulness as creator, editor and collector-curator is illustrated through more than 100 photographs and artifacts, borrowed from public and private collections, from his first endeavors with a camera to his final photographs in 1974.
Gelatin silver prints of his work for the Farm Security Administration in 1935-36 are exhibited with enlarged ink-jet prints produced under the direction of John T. Hill, the executor of the Walker Evans estate. Shown at large scale (some more than 4 feet wide), these photos reveal Evans’s eye for both the grit and poetry of daily life. A variety of photographic print processes are compared, exploring the special traits of each.
From the 1940s into the 1960s, Evans worked for Fortune magazine as a photo editor. A number of important editions, both books and periodicals, are displayed, including the April 1962 Fortune magazine essay, “The Auto Junkyard,” which was photographed in Lyme.
The exhibition looks at the photographer’s practice of collecting common things, both actual objects and their images, and curating these collections in personal displays throughout his home. From his collections of signs, postcards, driftwood and other objects to his late engagement with the “common tool” of the Polaroid SX-70, Evans looked with rigor at everyday objects and scenes, selecting and recasting them as works of art.
On Saturday, November 12, from 1 to 6:30 pm, scholars and photographers will gather for a symposium presenting new research and insights into the career of one of America’s most important photographers. The ongoing investigation of Evans’s importance to American culture will be studied with lectures by scholars from Yale, Brown and the Museum of Modern Art, and a panel discussion with some of Evans’s own Yale students. The day culminates with a lecture by Alan Trachtenberg, Neil Gray Jr professor emeritus of English and American studies at Yale University.
The fee for the symposium is $35 and reservations are required in advance. The Florence Griswold Museum is at 96 Lyme Street. For information or to make reservations, www.FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org or 860-434-5542, ext 111.
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