Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Diane Arbus: Revelations

Recommended by the lovely Ann-Marie:

Running from 13th October 2005 - 15th January 2006 at the V&A is a retrospective exhibition of '50s photographer Diane Arbus' most important work. Her work has been described as 'contemporary anthropology' and juxtaposes stereotypes in New York in the 19-50s and -60s. A fascinating freakshow?

1 comment:

aj said...

I managed to get to this exhibition last night, and may I recommend the last Friday of every month at the V&A - lots of arty types, live music, very fun. I forgot to mention the medical relevence in the original article, but Arbus' choice of subjects reflects a strong psychological interest in different groups of society.

Her early work seemed to me more innocent, fascination in the banal, capturing a simple moment in a simple life, but conjuring an illusion of that person which draws the viewer in.

Arbus was perhaps more interested in the sublime and ridiculous than a fair cross section of New York society, although this may be an illusory effect from the gravity of her pictures.

The innocence of her early work is succeeded by a more sinister contrived approach in her later pieces, where she seeks out niches of society at a time when tolerance to them was extremely low. The last sets pictures are taken at a 'funny farm', with images of Down's Syndrome children dressed as clowns, in a nudist camp, and with transvestites. The earlier focus on the sublime and ridiculous was good humoured; these old ladies in over the top hats on 5th Avenue made us smile fondly. Sadly the later pieces reflect a more conscious effort which I felt detracted from the quality of the work.

If you do go, make sure to see the magificent glass sculpture in the foyer. Incredible. There is also an exhibition of Chinese photography named 'Between Past and Future' which also looks intriguing.