Catalogue cover with photo by Walker Evans:
Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign, Chicago, Illinois, 1946
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Walker Evans: Decade by Decade
An exhibition by the Cincinnati Art Museum, curated by James Crump
Walker Evans (1903–1975) is undoubtedly one of the paragons in the history of photography. He can be credited with having paved the way for the acceptance of the medium, in particular of the documentary approach, as a means of artistic expression, and this cannot be rated high enough. And thus the opportunity of mounting an exhibition with original photographs—as much as his oeuvre has also become entrenched as a point of reference in the professional photographic and artistic world—is something very special. In view of the vintage prints being exhibited, which feature a specific tonality, choice of detail, as well as traces of handling and age, viewers will be able to engage in a direct dialogue with the photographer. We are presented with images, records of the period as it were, that enable us to directly appreciate Evans’s photographic approach and which provide convincing source material for understanding what has taken place since then. When one hears the name Walker Evens, one spontaneously thinks of those photographs he took, commissioned by the Farm Security Administration (FSA), in America during the Great Depression in the 1930s. While this early body of work has primarily defined the reception of his photography, those works that were produced in subsequent decades have remained largely ignored by the public.
Beginning with the rediscovery of Evans in the early 1970s, the exhibition Decade by Decade traces all of the photographer’s creative phases. Besides the images of the American South for the FSA (1935–36), the series of pictures of Victorian houses Evans began in 1931 will also be presented. Decade by Decade furthermore shows rare images of his journey to Tahiti in 1932, a selection of pictures that he took in 1933 in pre-Revolutionary Cuba, as well as a collection of photographs of African sculptures and masks produced in 1935 for New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In addition, numerous well-known portraits from his early creative phase, for example of Lincoln Kirstein, James Agee, and Hart Crane, will also be on display. The gamut of motifs being shown in the exhibition is thus as multifaceted as his oeuvre. In this spirit, the exhibition takes into account not only the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s—the years Evans worked for Fortune magazine—but also the photographer’s last works, which he took in the 1970s with what was at the time his new Polaroid SX-70.
“In a career that spanned five decades . . ., Evans radically altered the collective American consciousness, if not also the country’s collective memory; his photographs changed the way Americans viewed their country and themselves,” explains curator James Crump from the Cincinnati Art Museum, the exhibition’s initial venue.
Two hundred of the exhibits at Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne stem from the private collection of Clark and Joan Worswick in the United States, accompanied by selected groups of works from German collections.
A new, bilingual edition of the catalogue Walker Evans: Decade by Decade is being published by Hatje Cantz in conjunction with the exhibition, edited by the Cincinnati Art Museum.
On Saturday, September 22, 2012, at 3:00 p.m., there will be an opportunity to participate in a guided tour (in English) through the exhibition with the collector, author, photography specialist, and filmmaker Clark Worswick from New York.
Landesgalerie Linz am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum:
February 27–May 26, 2013
Huis Marseille, Amsterdam:
June 22–September 15, 2013