Sid Avery Bogart and Bacall at home 1952. � Sid Avery
American photography became the driving force of an international photographic style after World War II, having incorporated aspects of pre-war European photographic experimentation.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales has a wide range of American photographs, and more than 60 works from the Collection, from the 1880s to recent times, are showcased in the exhibition American Beauty, which will be on view from 5 June until 27 July 2003.
Featured in the exhibition are fine prints by Edward Weston, Elliott Erwitt and Ralph Gibson, photogravures from Camerawork, nudes by Ruth Bernhard, Lynn Davis and Robert Mapplethorpe, elegant fashion and portrait photographs by Horst, Edward Steichen and Irving Penn. These works are counterbalanced by the conceptual works of Duane Michals and Ed Ruscha, the ironic film stills of Cindy Sherman, the poetic memory works of Adam Fuss, and the recently acquired photographs by Nan Goldin.
American Beauty examines the twin obsessions of American photography: the belief in the possibility of showing the 'truth' through the photograph - often in order to effect social change - and the fascination with the depiction of pure form - a refinement which has become specifically American. Influenced at various times by English pictorialism and the early debates to do with photography and art, European New Vision, Dada and Surrealism, American photography had forged its own unique mode by the 1930s through the work of Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz and through the rise of the great picture magazines.
Photographers such as Weegee, with their hit-and-run approach to photographing both the high and the low, along with the spread of Hollywood style and advertising photography, presented to the world at large both the glamour and the tragedy of modern American life. The increasing diversification of photographic styles in recent decades has brought the work of Nan Goldin as much as Robert Mapplethorpe to prominence - the former with her celebration of New York subcultures and the latter the apotheosis of pure form.
Judy Annear, Senior Curator of Photography and Curator of American Beauty, will give a floor talk on the exhibition on Friday 13 June 2003 at 1.30pm.