Doing the Document: Photographs from Diane Arbus to Piet Zwart

31 August 2018–6 January 2019

Exhibition Overview

walker evans.jpg

Walker Evans, Subway Passengers, New York, 1938–1941.

Diane Arbus, Boris Becker, Karl Blossfeldt, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Candida Höfer, Gabriele and Helmut Nothhelfer, Tata Ronkholz, Albert Renger-Patzsch, August Sander, Hugo and Karl Hugo Schmölz, Garry Winogrand, Piet Zwart—across generations, all these photographers continually followed themes over decades in their work. In the case of Sander, these series formed an atlas of People of the Twentieth Century, while Höfer has created an archive of public spaces and their codes of representation, and Blossfeldt catalogued the formal variety of fauna and flora. “Straight photography” brought together the varying reception of photography as artistic and documentary in a particular way.

This survey exhibition presents the mutual influence between German and American positions in the dense cultural landscape of the Rhine­land from the 1960s to the 1990s. This is where the first photography galleries were located in the 1970s, which were enthusiastic supporters of August Sander, Florence Henri, Piet Zwart, and Karl Blossfeldt, as well as American photographers in the 1960s such as Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand, and popularized them by continually engaging with the public. At the same time, Bernd and Hilla Becher were highly influential through their teaching at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. And, not least, important solo and group exhibitions had a lasting impact on the reception. In the 1950s, L. Fritz Gruber showed August Sander in the Photokina photography shows. In 1976 the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf exhibited photographs by Walker Evans, and around the same time Klaus Honnef curated important group exhibitions of documentary photography at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn.

© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Reproduction: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Cologne.

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