The Jeu de Paume presents the first retrospective in twenty-five years of the great American photographer, Garry Winogrand (1928–1984), who chronicled America in the post-war years. Winogrand is still relatively unknown because he left his work unfinished at the time of his death, but he is unquestionably one of the masters of American street photography, on a par with Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander and William Klein.
Winogrand, who photographed “to see what the world looks like in photographs,” is famous for his photographs of New York and American life from the 1950s through the early 1980s. Organized jointly by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the exhibition “Garry Winogrand” brings together the artist’s most iconic images with newly printed photographs from his until now largely unexamined archive of late work, offering a rigorous overview of the photographer’s complete working life and revealing for the first time the full sweep of his career.
The photographs in the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue will create a vivid portrait of the artist, a chronicler of postwar America on a par with such figures as Norman Mailer and Robert Rauschenberg, who unflinchingly captured America’s wrenching swings between optimism and upheaval in the decades following World War II.
While Winogrand is widely considered to be one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, his overall body of work and influence on the field remains incompletely explored. He was enormously prolific, but largely postponed the editing and printing of his work. Dying suddenly at the age of fifty-six, he left behind approximately 6,500 rolls of film (some 250,000 images) that he had never seen, as well as proof sheets from his earlier years that he had marked but never printed. Roughly half of the photographs in the exhibition have never been exhibited or published until now; over 100 have never before been printed.
“There exists in photography no other body of work of comparable size or quality that is so editorially unresolved,” says Rubinfien, who was among the youngest of Winogrand’s circle of friends in the 1970s. “This exhibition represents the first effort to comprehensively examine Winogrand’s unfinished work. It also aims to turn the presentation of his work away from topical editing and toward a freer organization that is faithful to his art’s essential spirit, thus enabling a new understanding of his oeuvre, even for those who think they know him.”
The exhibition is divided into three parts, each covering a broad variety of subjects found in Winogrand’s art : “Down from the Bronx” presents photographs taken for the most part in New York from his start in 1950 until 1971; “A Student of America” looks at work made in the same period during journeys outside New York; and “Boom and Bust” addresses Winogrand’s late period—from when he moved away from New York in 1971 until his death in 1984—with photographs from Texas and Southern California, as well as Chicago, Washington, Miami, and other locations. This third section also includes a small number of photographs Winogrand made on trips back to Manhattan, which express a sense of desolation unprecedented in his earlier work.
Winogrand was known as great talker with a flamboyant, forceful personality, and what he said accompanying his slide shows and lectures was often imaginative and very funny. Excerpts from a video made in 1977 will allow visitors to experience the living Winogrand.