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Garry Winogrand: The Animals

In the early 1960s, Winogrand spent much of his time with his children at Central Park Zoo, which was lively, convenient, and free. Winogrand’s photographs made in and around the zoo were radically different in ambition from those of his contemporaries. In Winogrand’s zoo the animals are not more important and are, in fact, united with them in a peculiar kind of symbiosis. Winogrand’s zoo is a kind of theater, in which humans and the lower vertebrates act out in parable the comic drama of modern urban life.

As complex and as simple as ancient parables, [the pictures] cannot be imagined otherwise. Superficially casual, like a good fieldstone wall, they prove with familiarity to be irreducible and ordered. The richness of their observation and the sophistication of their graphic command amounts to virtuosity. Winogrand has made chaos clearly visible; he has disciplined it without breaking its spirit. It is not supremely difficult to make a clear picture of a truism, and it is easier still to hold up a mirror to the maelstrom and call it art. But to see and set down with acuity the flickering meaning that illuminate the menagerie we perform in- this is a creative miracle. —John Szarkowski.

Garry Winogrand died in 1984 at the age of fifty-six. His career as a photographer spanned a full generation during which time his work challenged and revised the standards by which ambitious photography is judged. Winogrand is the subject of a traveling retrospective exhibition and monograph entitled Figments from the Real World, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988).