Gagosian Gallery to Present Selections from
Richard Avedon's In The American Westat Frieze Masters Art Fair, London
|RICHARD AVEDON Bubba Morrison, oil field worker, Albany, Texas, June 10, 1979, 1979|
Gelatin silver print mounted on aluminum, 59 5/8 x 47 1/8 inches (151.4 x 119.7 cm), Ed. of 6
In 1979, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, commissioned Richard Avedon, renowned for his portraiture and fashion images, to produce an exhibition documenting ordinary people of the western United States. Avedon spent six years traveling thousands of miles from Mesquite, Texas, to Sacramento, California, from Reliance, Wyoming, to Deadwood, South Dakota, photographing local people all along the way. The result was an unforgettable cast which constitutes the historic series In The American West
Avedon sought to portray the human condition, and thus his subjects do not conform to romanticized, Hollywood archetypes of the West. His exploration marked a time of great boom and bust, during which towns quickly sprang up only to become obsolete as soon as resources depleted. The faces of blood and dirt-stained laborers, carefully groomed cowgirls, and gaunt drifters reflect the diversity of inhabitants and their experiences. Avedon's photographs were taken with a large-format Deardorff camera, which allowed the enlargement of prints to be greater than life-size, thereby emphasizing the images' subtle details. The final portraits were first exhibited at the Amon Carter Museum in 1985 and have since appeared in fifteen solo exhibitions around the world.
To photograph these unknown subjects, Avedon employed many of the same techniques as for his portraits of famous people. The blank white background, the subject's direct eye contact with the photographer, and the monumental scale of the finished prints subvert the traditional language by which status is denoted. Thus the carney worker becomes analogous to the model, the coal miner to the politician. In his own words, Avedon extended a heroic province "generally reserved for politicians, celebrities, models, and the wealthy to the purview of those we often ignore."
Richard Avedon (1923-2004) is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Born in New York City, Avedon began his professional photographic career in 1942 in the U.S. Merchant Marine Photographic Department, and attended the Design Laboratory at the New School. He began work as a fashion photographer for Harper's Bazaar in 1945, eventually joining rival Vogue magazine, where he would remain on staff until 1988. In 1992 he was named the first staff photographer for The New Yorker. He received a Master of Photography Award from the International Center for Photography and his work is included in the collections of MoMA, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with countless other museums and institutions worldwide. He is the only photographer to have had two major exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Richard Avedon established The Richard Avedon Foundation during his lifetime. Based in New York, the Foundation is the repository for Avedon's photographs, negatives, publications, papers, and archival materials.
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