Constantin Brancusi, Marie Cosindas, F. Holland Day, André Kertész, Alfred Leslie, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Outerbridge, Irving Penn, Man Ray, Alexander Rodchenko, Aaron Siskind, Keith Smith, Frederick Sommer, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Francesca Woodman, and John Wood
Painted in the 1980s, Alfred Leslie’s 100 Views Along the Road is a series of atmospheric grisailles watercolors - scenes of the American landscape as viewed while driving. Leslie has termed them notans, a reference to the Japanese concept of our response to the “certain beauty of just so much white to just so much black.” The images are as much impressionistic as they are fictionalized. As Leslie’s work often makes use of artifice, this project centers on the landscape as myth; though they appear systematic, truthful, and even photographic, they are in fact perceptual.
The only photographic member of the American Abstract-Expressionist movement, Aaron Siskind focused on the formal relationship between light, structure, texture, and line, using an overtly straightforward technique of isolating and enlarging everyday subject matter. Siskind’s well-known series Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation (1956-1970) are photographs of divers leaping from a high platform at Lake Michigan; the images suspend the figure in empty space, exuding feelings of joy, tension, and fear. This set of nine vintage prints was recently featured in the Tate Modern’s exhibition Performing for the Camera.
In the early 1940s, Edward Weston’s muse and lover, Charis, who had been working in civilian defense, was issued a gas mask. Weston photographed Charis wearing the mask, but nothing else; the result, titled Civilian Defense, is still shocking today. Museum of Modern Art curator Nancy Newhall was apparently less than enthusiastic about Weston’s ‘black humor’, but at the artist’s insistence over her objections, this print was included in his 1946 retrospective exhibition at MoMA.