The displays have great contrapuntal rhythms, between past and present, between color and black-and-white, and among sensibilities guided by burning social consciences, the drive to experiment or a joyful embrace of the medium’s idiosyncratic possibilities. Sometimes all of this can be found in one eclectic presentation. At Edwynn Houk, one of Robert Frank’s insightful images of Americans shares walls with Lillian Bassman’s innovative fashion photography and Abelardo Morell’s playful new still lifes, notably a scene of domestic catastrophe created for the camera from plywood, a ceramic pitcher and a plethora of flowers.
As a longtime editor and the creator of 10 Corso Como, Milan’s high-end retail and dining complex, Carla Sozzani is a well-known figure in the fashion world; and as the founder of the gallery there that bears her name, she’s been a longtime force in the art world as well. What many don’t know is that she is also a passionate collector of photography. For more than 40 years, she has built a collection of over 650 works, mostly in black and white, representing more than 70 artists from the 19th century to today: big names like Helmut Newton, Alfred Stieglitz, August Sanders and Irving Penn, but also lesser-known photographers like Xanti Schawinsky, an experimental artist from the 1920s.
Lillian Bassman (1917-2012) began her career in fashion photography assisting the great Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch. She was an accomplished darkroom technician who honed her skills on her lunch hours developing images for George Hoyningen-Huene, using bleach and selective focus to manipulate the prints. In 1946 she began taking her own photographs, and in 1947 Harper’s published Bassman’s first picture...
As the art director of Junior Bazaar, a short-lived Harper's Bazaar spin-off, Lillian Bassman spent the early 40's working with photography greats like Robert Frank and Richard Avedon. Then she decided to pick up the camera herself. Soon, it was Bassman's own images appearing in the pages of Bazaar—carefully blurred, fashion-focused silhouettes that John Galliano once described as possessed of "painterly strokes of light." Though she did lose a bit of fire at one point—Bassman destroyed decades' worth of prints and negatives in the 70's, even debating abandoning the medium—she stuck with her instantly recognizable black-and-white photography, shooting Galliano's designs up into the 90's, even toying around with digital before she died in 2012. Take a look back at her career through some her most memorable pictures, up now at New York's Edwynn Houk Gallery through July 8th, here.
Edwynn Houk Gallery presents its exclusive representation of the Estate of Lillian Bassman and its first exhibition of the artist’s photographs. The show will feature more than 30 photographs tracing the legendary fashion photographer’s stylistic development from early vintage prints to her reinterpreted prints made in the 1990s.
In the early 1970s, after decades as a successful fashion photographer, Lillian Bassman got fed up. Disillusioned by the direction that commercial fashion imagery was headed, she stopped taking assignments and even destroyed most of her negatives and prints—which now seems like a bizarre act of a mad artist.