Everyday America: Photographs from the Berman Collection @Steven Kasher

JTF (just the facts): A total of 115 black and white and color photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls in the North and South gallery spaces, as well as the alcove and the smaller viewing room in back. A total of 32 different photographers are represented in the show. Sizes range from 6×4 to 55×45 (or reverse), and negative dates range from 1929 to 2004. All of the works come from the Berman collection. (Installation shots at right.)

The following photographers are included in the show, with the number of prints on view and their dates in parentheses:

  • Margaret Bourke-White (2 gelatin silver prints, 1935/1996, 1936/1996)
  • Harry Callahan (1 gelatin silver print, 1948/1970s)
  • William Christenberry (1 digital pigment print, 1976/2005)
  • William Clift (1 gelatin silver print, 1970)
  • Robert Dawson (1 chromogenic dye coupler print, 1985/1990)
  • William Eggleston (2 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1970s)
  • Mitch Epstein (8 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1973/2005, 1983/2005, 1996/1997, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 1 Fujicrystal archive print, 2004)
  • Terry Evans (2 archival inkjet prints, 2003, 2004)
  • Walker Evans (22 gelatin silver prints, 1929/1971, 1930/1971, 1931/1971, 1931/1974, 1930s/1971, 1935/1960s, 1935/1971, 1936/1971, 1936/1974, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1962/1960s, 1969)
  • Robert Frank (3 gelatin silver prints, 1953/1970s, 1956/1980, 1950s/1979)
  • Todd Hido (1 chromogenic dye coupler print, 2000)
  • Evelyn Hofer (4 gelatin silver prints, 1963/later, 1965/later)
  • John Humble (5 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1991/2006, 1995/2003, 1995/2005, 1997/2005, 1998/2005)
  • David Husom (2 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1981/2002, 2001, 1 Ektacolor print, 1978/1994)
  • Birney Imes (4 chromogenic dye coupler print, 1986, 1986/2004, 1989/2003)
  • Dorothea Lange (13 gelatin silver prints, 1930/1935, 1930s, 1935/1950, 1936/1950s, 1937, 1938, 1941, 1942, 1951/1965, 1952, 1957/1960s)
  • Russell Lee (4 dye transfer prints, 1940/1986)
  • Helen Levitt (2 gelatin silver prints, 1937/later, 1939/later)
  • Martin Parr (1 chromogenic dye coupler print, 2001)
  • Christian Patterson (1 chromogenic dye coupler print, 2003)
  • Sheron Rupp (2 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1983/1990s, 1990/1990s)
  • Gene Peterson (9 gelatin silver prints, 1950)
  • Stephen Shore (1 dye transfer print, 1981/1982)
  • Aaron Siskind (3 gelatin silver prints, 1935/later, 1937/1976, 1938/1976)
  • Mike Smith (2 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1996, 2000)
  • Joel Sternfeld (2 Ektacolor prints, 1983/1986, 1993/1994, 2 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1997, 2005)
  • George Tice (1 gelatin silver print, 1970/1993)
  • John Vachon (1 dye transfer print, 1940/1985)
  • Chris Verene (1 chromogenic dye coupler print, 1993/2002)
  • Camilo Jose Vergara (4 chromogenic dye coupler prints, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1988)
  • James Welling (4 gelatin silver prints, 1990/1990s, 1991/1990s)
  • Henry Wessel (1 gelatin silver print, 1974)

Comments/Context: By its very definition, the word collector implies a focus on hunting, gathering, search and acquisition. It’s a forward looking, accretive mindset, generally adding up rather than subtracting. But at the end of every collecting road, there is a less well publicized unwinding, where artworks once treasured by the collector must find new homes. The three classic Ds (debt, death, and divorce) often act as catalysts for the breaking up process, but we tend not to spend much time talking about the best ways to actually make this disassembly take place smoothly.

The unpacking of the Berman collection of photography has been a particularly public example of the dispersion of a large collection. Once tallying up at over 2500+ photographs, its break up has been and continues to be a huge undertaking. To date, the remonetization of the collection has included donations to various Los Angeles museums (LACMA, MOCA, and the Getty), a series of auctions at Christie’s, and now the first of likely a few gallery shows of additional slices of material, with the overall process measured in years and heading for an end to end duration of nearly a decade.

This show combines lower priced and lesser known material that was likely not a terrific fit for auction with a number of vintage gems that somehow avoided earlier pick throughs. As a reminder, the Berman collection had a focus on American photography, with particular interest in built structures and vernacular architecture, mixing 20th century and contemporary work. This particular selection is heavy on work by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange (both vintage and later prints), with a solid dose of Mitch Epstein and a sprinkling of Frank, Sternfeld, Siskind, Levitt and many others, known and unknown. Building facades, commercial signage, and sidewalk storefronts are common subject matter, mixing urban and rural locales with equal measure. The rigid geometries of Evelyn Hofer’s stone windows give way to John Humble’s saturated color California strip architecture, and Walker Evans’ New England interiors connect to Birney Imes’ vibrant Southern juke joints. Dorothea Lange’s Funeral Cortege, End of an Era in a Small Valley Town, from 1935 is the star of the show, with its classic pained expression caught in the hearse window.

All in, this is a lively compendium of American photography, covering roughly 75 years of artistic history. Hung up and down in jumping pairs and groups, there’s plenty to catch your eye and compare.

Collector’s POV: The prints in the show are priced as follows:

  • Margaret Bourke-White: $3000 each
  • Harry Callahan: $12000
  • William Christenberry: $4000
  • William Clift: $3500
  • Robert Dawson: $2000
  • William Eggleston: $12500, $20000
  • Mitch Epstein: $7500, $9500
  • Terry Evans: $3500 each
  • Walker Evans: $5000, $6000, $8000, $8500, $12000, $12500, $15000
  • Robert Frank: $8500, $12500, $25000
  • Todd Hido: $4800
  • Evelyn Hofer: $7500, $8500
  • John Humble: $5000 each
  • David Husom: $1800 each
  • Birney Imes: $1500, $2000, $4000, $5500
  • Dorothea Lange: $6000, $7000, $9000, $10000, $12000, $15000, $20000, $40000, $50000
  • Russell Lee: $3000 each
  • Helen Levitt: $6000 each
  • Martin Parr: $5500
  • Christian Patterson: $2500
  • Sheron Rupp: $1800 each
  • Gene Peterson: $1200 each
  • Stephen Shore: $9000
  • Aaron Siskind: $6000, $15000
  • Mike Smith: $2000 each
  • Joel Sternfeld: $5000, $12500, $15000
  • George Tice: $3000
  • John Vachon: $3000
  • Chris Verene: $15000
  • Camilo Jose Vergara: $3000 each
  • James Welling: $5000 each
  • Henry Wessel: $7000

Aaron Siskind, Birney Imes, Camilo José Vergara, Chris Verene, Christian Patterson, Dorothea Lange, Evelyn Hofer, George Tice, Harry Callahan, Helen Levitt, Henry Wessel, James Welling, Joel Sternfeld, John Humble, Margaret Bourke-White, Martin Parr, Mitch Epstein, Robert Frank, Russell Lee, Stephen Shore, Terry Evans, Todd Hido, Walker Evans, William Christenberry, William Eggleston, Steven Kasher Gallery

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