JTF (just the facts): A total of 30 color images, framed in white and not matted, and hung unevenly in a small side viewing room. Since neither wall labels nor a handy exhibition checklist was readily available, the usual detailed information about sizes, dates, editions, formats, and even titles was not present; what follows are my assumptions or simply approximate guesses. While these works were taken on 4×5 Polaroid film, the prints in the show are somewhat larger than this, perhaps roughly 7×9. All of the images were apparently taken between 1980 and 1984. A monograph of this work has been recently published by Aperture and is available in the shop for $40 (here). (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Barbara Crane’s snapshot images of people at crowded Chicagoland street fairs capture the sweaty essence of 1980s summer warmth. Using lush Polaroid color and daytime flash to isolate her subjects, Crane crops the mass of humanity into fragments of body parts, highlighting t-shirts and tank tops, satin jackets and sunglasses, striped short shorts and dated hair styles. Visitors clutch boom boxes and ice cream cones, reveling in the food and drink of a casual day in the city.
The best of the images in this show document the intimate gestures of family, friends and lovers, the passing touches that are reminders of attachment and connection in a big crowd. Arms are interlinked, draped across each other, and wound around waists and hips. Hands are held and bodies are squashed together in playful embraces. People sit together, side by side, or on top of one another. Kisses are both furtive and outrageous.
In my view, this is an excellent example of a body of work that thrives in book form. The prints are small and together they give a tangible sense for wandering among these teeming crowds. While a few rise up to being strong stand alone images, many work better in juxtaposition with other images, where the saturated color of the fashions and the closeness of the movement create an ebullient down and dirty primer on body language.
Collector’s POV: Since the images in this show are not for sale, no prices were offered. Barbara Crane is represented by Stephen Daiter Gallery in Chicago (here) and Higher Pictures in New York (here). Even though Crane has had a long and prolific career as a photographer, the availability of her work in the secondary markets is spotty at best; there have been very few of her works sold at auction in the past few years, thus creating very little recent price history.
While the images in this show don’t fit particularly well into our specific collection, some of her earlier black and white work from the 1960s and 1970s (tying into her studies at the ID) certainly would.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Barbara Crane: Private Views
Through January 21st
547 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001