In the fall of 1999, Fraenkel Gallery will celebrate its twentieth anniversary with a special exhibition entitled 20Twenty. Including works by sixty-eight photographers and spanning the history of the medium, the exhibition will focus on masterworks as well as entirely unknown photographs by anonymous practitioners. Artists include Arbus, Brassai, Cornell, Duchamp, Eggleston, Kertesz, LeWitt, Man Ray, Modotti, Rodchenko, Ruscha, Stieglitz, Strand, and Warhol, among many others.
Moving backward, forward, and sideways through the past 160 years, the works on view interweave in unexpected ways themes that photographers have addressed since the invention of the medium. The exhibition begins with Thomas Eakins’s rare platinum-print of The Swimming Hole (1883), an intensely subtle study of aspects of the human form. The image concentrates on a group of Eakins’s students on a field trip to Mill Creek, near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and was used as a study for his painting of the same name at the Amon Carter Museum, Forth Worth.
Photography’s ability to imbue an object with metaphysical power is felt in Edward Weston’s unique platinum print of a woman’s back, Francis Frith’s view of the pyramids at Dashoor, and Brancusi’s heretofore unknown study of an orchid placed on a glass pedestal. The varying ways artists have used the medium as a tool for investigating aspects of the self are seen in Andy Warhol’s early photobooth self-portrait, the Countess of Castiglioni’s extravagantly formal studio display from 1860, and Florence Henri’s intense self-study in a mirror dated 1928. Photography’s innately surrealist aspects are vividly demonstrated in Hans Bellmer’s La Maitrailleuse en Etat de Grace (1937), a disturbing triptych in which the artist has isolated aspects of his well-known sculpture with white gouache, Eugene Atget’s study of a group of headless mannequins, and Diane Arbus’s vintage print of the Albino Sword Swallower at a Carnival, MD, from 1970.
The exhibition and book conclude with a suite of photographs that acknowledge photography’s absolute dependency on the eye itself, with Man Ray’s undisputed masterwork Glass Tears (1933), Walker Evans’s never-before-published portrait of Berenice Abbott, whose stare bores directly into the center of his camera’s lens, and John Gutmann’s 1939 fragment of a face, entitled Memory.
A 184-page hardcover catalog illustrating every work in 20Twenty is being published to accompany the exhibition. The book includes a complete exhibition history spanning the gallery’s first twenty years, and an afterword by Jeffrey Fraenkel.