The Image Gallery: Redux 1959-1962 @Howard Greenberg

JTF (just the facts): A group show featuring a total of 102 black and white photographs made by 22 different photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung against grey and cream colored walls in both the main and second gallery spaces. Details of the artists included, the number of works on view for each, and process information/negative dates are listed below:

Main Gallery

  • Gert Berliner: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1960, 1961
  • Lou Bernstein: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1949, 1952, 1969
  • Rudy Burckhardt: 3 sets of 4 gelatin silver prints, 1939, 1947
  • Charles Harbutt: 6 selenium toned gelatin silver prints, 1957, 1959
  • Dave Heath: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1956, 1959, 1960
  • Simpson Kalisher: 5 gelatin silver prints, 1959-1961
  • Charles Pratt: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1960
  • Larry Siegel: 12 gelatin silver prints, 1956-1962
  • David Vestal: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1949, 1958, 1959
  • Jasper Wood: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1947-1955

Second Gallery

  • Sheldon Brody: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1960
  • John Cohen: 5 gelatin silver prints, 1959
  • Martin Dain: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1961, 1962
  • Arthur Freed: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1950-1961
  • Sid Grossman: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1947-1948
  • Saul Leiter: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1949, 1954
  • Duane Michals: 5 gelatin silver prints, 1958
  • Enrico Natali: 6 gelatin silver prints, 1960
  • Steve Schapiro: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1959-1961
  • Ann Treer: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1959-1961
  • Kenneth Van Sickle: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1955, 1959, 1962
  • Garry Winogrand: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1955, 1959

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Back in the spring of 1959 when Larry Siegel opened up The Image Gallery in a storefront on East 10th Street, running a gallery dedicated to photography wasn’t exactly an obvious idea. Aside from Helen Gee’s Limelight Gallery and the long past historical precedents of Alfred Stieglitz and Julian Levy, there wasn’t much evidence that such a space could be successful. But over the next three short lived years, the gallery would give Duane Michals and Garry Winogrand their first gallery shows in New York and would deliver a consistent program of recent street photography and photojournalism. Organized to match specific shows at Siegel’s gallery, this summary is like an unearthed time capsule, a sampler of images from nearly two dozen exhibits together providing a layered glimpse of the photographic environment in the city in the early 1960s.

In contrast to the expansiveness of our current international art world, Siegel’s approach feels community-based and intensely local; many of the photographers he showed lived nearby or were out shooting in the streets. Sid Grossman was making portraits on the beach at Coney Island, Enrico Natali was taking pictures on the subway, and Dave Heath was capturing clusters of people in Washington Square. Rudy Burckhardt’s sidewalk pedestrians transformed the bustle of the city into time-based frames, where crossing the street or passing in front of a shop window was turned into a stop motion frieze of activity.

Other photographers were more interested in the angles of the city than its residents. Charles Pratt documented the spider web of overhead wires in Hoboken, while David Vestal looked down on 22nd Street, playing with the lines of iron fire escapes and flattened perspectives. Ann Treer found formal elegance in city cars, from a sea of finned trunks in a parking lot to the twists of a crumpled bumper.

Subjects from father afield often fell into the realm of concerned photojournalism, or the application of a New York street style to another venue. John Cohen captured coal miners and family farms in rural Kentucky, while Martin Dain made portraits of cotton pickers and town surveyors in Mississippi. Kenneth Van Sickle used wine glasses to refract a bar scene in Paris, while Sheldon Brody found the subtle comedy of a massive sumo wrestler holding a tiny terrier in Japan. And early traces of Duane Michals’ mature style can be found in his images from Russia, with pared down portraits given context by hand written annotations.

The most innovative works in this show come from Saul Leiter, who made unexpected use of the contrasts of deep darkness. A party is turned into a skyline of dark silhouettes, while a kissing couple is given some illicit privacy by the enveloping blackness of a hallway. And a portrait of John Cage is reduced to the bottom of his shoe, the shiny rivets reflecting amid the cut out black shapes and shadows.

While much of the often well made work on view here has been forgotten in the march of photographic history, this show does the important service of filling in the gaps in the record and giving credit where credit is due to a pioneering gallery. Kudos to Howard Greenberg Gallery for being willing (and able) to dive deeper to rediscover and celebrate this overlooked link in the photographic chain.

Collector’s POV: The photographs in this show are priced as follows:

  • Gert Berliner: $1600 or $3500 each
  • Lou Bernstein: $4000 or $5000 each
  • Sheldon Brody: $3500 each
  • Rudy Burckhardt: $20000 each (sets of 4)
  • John Cohen: $2000, $7500, or $10000 each
  • Martin Dain: $1800 each
  • Arthur Freed: $5500 or $7500 each
  • Sid Grossman: $10000, $12000, $15000, or $18000 each
  • Charles Harbutt: $10000 or $14000 each
  • Dave Heath: $7000 or $8000 each
  • Simpson Kalisher: $4000 each
  • Saul Leiter: NFS
  • Duane Michals: $5000 or $14000 each
  • Enrico Natali: $3000 each
  • Charles Pratt: $6000 each
  • Steve Schapiro: $3000 or $7000 each
  • Larry Siegel: $2500, $3500, or $4000 each
  • Ann Treer: $6000 each
  • Kenneth Van Sickle: $2000 or $3500 each
  • David Vestal: $3500 each
  • Garry Winogrand: $11000 or $15000 each
  • Jasper Wood: $2000 each

While Winogrand, Michals, Burckhardt, and Leiter have established secondary market track records, many of the lesser known photographers included in this show have little or no auction history. As such, gallery retail likely remains the best/only option for following up on the work of those artists.

Ann Treer, Arthur Freed, Charles Harbutt, Charles Pratt, Dave Heath, David Vestal, Duane Michals, Enrico Natali, Garry Winogrand, Gert Berliner, Jasper Wood, John Cohen, Kenneth Van Sickle, Larry Siegel, Lou Bernstein, Martin Dain, Rudy Burckhardt, Saul Leiter, Sheldon Brody, Sid Grossman, Simpson Kalisher, Steve Schapiro, Howard Greenberg Gallery

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