February 27–March 1, 2020
Park Avenue Armory
Park Avenue at 67th Street
New York City
Thursday - Friday: 12 to 8pm
Saturday: 12 to 7pm
Sunday: 12 to 5pm
It was an extraordinary time for photography in New York City. Rules were broken. Innovation was paramount. The spirit of existentialism soared. And in the process, a group of photographers would go on to rock the very foundations of photography.
Known as the New York School, they were a loosely defined cadre of forward-thinking photographers whose influence helped shape the trajectory of Howard Greenberg Gallery. Some of their most iconic images will be on view in The New York School: Photographs, 1936-1963 at Howard Greenberg Gallery at The Art Show, presented by the Art Dealers Association of America, from February 27 through March 1, 2020 at the Park Avenue Armory.
From the 1930s through the 1960s, photography in New York developed a distinct aesthetic due to a number of factors, including the influx of prominent European artists as a result of the two World Wars, the growing use of photography in magazines and books, as well as film noir and burgeoning social movements. A group of photographers emerged that showed “the sustained aesthetic quality, authority, and invention in their work that define artistic innovators,” according to Jane Livingston, a former curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, whose seminal 1992 book The New York School: Photographs, 1936 – 1963, has characterized the genre.
The exhibition at Howard Greenberg Gallery at The Art Show will include work by photographers including Diane Arbus, Alexey Brodovitch, Ted Croner, Bruce Davidson, Louis Faurer, Sid Grossman, William Klein, Leon Levinstein, Saul Leiter, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, and Weegee, among others.
As Livingston notes in her book, “The photographic style of the New York School is characterized by a conscious breaking of the rules of photography. The photographers belong to what has been characterized in poetry circles as the Robert Lowell generation: ‘those last outriders of a spent romanticism.’ However, their style has nothing to do with the sublimity or self-absorption we ordinarily associate with romanticism: rather it is an utterly tough-minded, sometimes consciously un-artistic modality.”
Photography and photo history before the 1930s were defined in a linear manner with rigid categories, but by 1936, photography had expanded into a much more multidisciplinary practice. The editorial influence on photography by Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch and his Design Laboratory, combined with the vast cultural melting pot of New York City forged a refinement of radical visual ideas. Photographers began developing an editorial focus and creative rigor that made their images visually striking but humanistic. With their brand of touch-minded romanticism, they captured the increasingly interesting intersections of culture commerce and people that were unique to New York City during their time.
Nearly three decades after the publication of Livingston’s book, the legacy of the New York School of photographs remains as influential and absorbing as ever.