Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of 45 photographs by Diane Arbus, curated by acclaimed contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems. A long-time admirer of Arbus’s work, Weems has selected images spanning Arbus’s fifteen-year career, from 1956 until her death in 1971. The exhibition will be on view at 49 Geary Street from June 3 to August 13, 2021, and will be followed by an exhibition devoted to Weems’s own work in September.
Weems has cited Arbus, along with David Hammons, as artists of paramount importance to her. To inaugurate Fraenkel Gallery’s recently announced representation of Weems, the artist was invited to curate an exhibition of Arbus’s photographs, the sole directive being to focus on works that speak powerfully and directly to her.
Weems’s selection begins with a single preliminary image from 1945, in which Arbus stands before a mirror, pregnant with her first child. It then leaps to 1956 when, at age 33, Arbus consciously began her career as an artist. The exhibition features three photographs from 1956, including Carroll Baker on screen in “Baby Doll” (with silhouette), N.Y.C. 1956 and Kiss from “Baby Doll,” N.Y.C. 1956, among several photographs in the show set in darkened movie theaters.
While the exhibition includes well-known images such as Two boys smoking in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1963 and A young waitress at a nudist camp, N.J. 1963, Weems’s selection focuses primarily on lesser-known works. Among them are Woman making a kissy face, Sammy’s Bowery Follies, N.Y.C. 1958, one of the earliest of Arbus’s photographs in which she places her camera strikingly close to her subject’s face, and Kenneth Hall, the new Mr. New York City, at a physique contest, N.Y.C. 1959, about whom Arbus noted, “he can wiggle his chest muscles separately and has developed a muscle on the back of his thighs which no one else has ever developed.” The photographs Weems has selected trace the evolution of Arbus’s technique and encompass a broad cross-section of her interests. The subjects depicted include couples, children, transvestites and female impersonators, nudists, families, and celebrities, often photographed in parks, bedrooms, and dance halls, in New York City and elsewhere.