Diane Arbus: Portraits on Assignment

Diane Arbus: Portraits on Assignment will be on view at Fraenkel Gallery, 55 Grant Avenue, from January 16 through February 23, 1985. Coinciding with the Aperture publication, Diane Arbus: Magazine Work, this will be the first and only exhibition of the photographs in northern California.

Diane Arbus was a singular and explosive force in photography, reshaping both the ways pictures are made and our response to them. The 1972 Aperture monograph, Diane Arbus, one of the most popular photography books ever published, presented the unusual characters—transvestites, retarded adults, carnival performers—for which she is so well known. Diane Arbus: Portraits on Assignment presents Arbus’s commercial photographs made for the most glamorous and innovative publications of the Sixties.

Arbus entered the magazine business during a period of intense experimentation and opportunity. Joining the ranks of Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Irving Penn, who found in magazines a means of earning a living in the days when art photography was still a questionable proposition, Arbus worked for eleven years creating photographs of astonishing originality for such publications as Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, he London Sunday Times Magazine, and many others. Her assignments covered the luminaries of literature, theater, film, fashion, show business, and high society. The exhibition includes portraits of Charles Atlas, Mae West, James Brown, Marcello Mastroianni and Norman Mailer, who once commented: “Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.”

Diane Arbus: Portraits on Assignment is a collective portrait of sixties’ style and culture. It reveals an artist who posed no artificial boundary between art and the paying job, and who chose, regardless of the outlet, to put her own uncompromising, indelible stamp on our visual imagination.

The nationally touring exhibition Diane Arbus: Magazine Work will be on view at the University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach from January 29 to February 24, 1985.