James Barron Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs by Aaron Siskind in relation to abstract art. Siskind, the photographer most closely associated with Abstract Expressionism, had an enormous impact on the artists of his day. Our exhibition contains direct artistic correspondences with his artist friends, including Willem de Kooning, Jack Tworkov, Hans Hofmann and Milton Resnick. Siskind’s indirect affect on artists continues to this day, and we are exploring his aesthetic affinity with a diverse range of artists, including Anthony Caro, Suzan Frecon, Ray Johnson and Brice Marden.
Siskind began his artistic career as a documentary photographer, but around 1944, he focused on the “practice of photography as art, away from illustration and representation,” as he wrote in an application for a Guggenheim grant in 1956. His photographs became flattened and abstract. In the same application essay, Siskind said, “For my material I have gone to the ‘commonplace,’ the ‘neglected,’ the ‘insignificant’ — the walls, the pavement, the iron work of New York City, the endless items once used and now discarded by people, the concrete walls of Chicago and deep subways of New York on which water and weather have left their mark — the detritus of our world which I am combing for meaning.”
Siskind’s pursuit of photography as art resulted in photographs that reflected the Abstract Expressionist aesthetic of the day. Siskind formed friendships with many artists of the time, including Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, and Jack Tworkov. He had a particularly close friendship with Kline; Siskind created a series of works entitled “Homage to F.K.,” examples of which is included in our exhibition. These friendships informed the artists’ works; Elaine de Kooning called Siskind “a painters’ photographer,” noting that “he completely rejects whole spheres of photographic possibilities...to go looking for forms as highly personal as any that a painter could invent.”
Siskind was a member of Studio 35, a group of artists and creative minds founded by David Hare, William Baziotes, Robert Motherwell, and Barnett Newman. The group included Hans Hofmann, who is represented in our show with a work from 1945. They gathered on Friday nights at 35 West 8th Street for dinner and conversation. Siskind also documented exhibitions such as the Ninth Street Show, New York, 1951, which included paintings by Jack Tworkov. More than just a social group, these artists began to show at Charles Egan Gallery. Siskind showed in this creative hotbed. One can see the aesthetic influences between Siskind and his artist peers.
Siskind’s continued influence on abstraction is still felt today, whether directly or obliquely. We are presenting aesthetic parallels including the sweeping curve of Siskind’s majestic Chicago 1949 and Anthony Caro’s Table Piece from the 1970s, and our pairing of Jalapa 10 (Homage to Franz Kline) with a calligraphic Brice Marden ink on paper.
These twenty-two Siskind photographs are from the Estate of Lynn and Steven Barron, acquired in 1979 and never before exhibited in public.
“Aaron Siskind’s work seems more vibrant with time, and we are pleased to explore his relationship with his artist friends, and his continued legacy in abstraction. We hope our exhibition will shed light on Siskind’s remarkable contribution to abstract art.” says James Barron.
Born in New York in 1903, Siskind taught high school English for over two decades before began his photography career as a documentarian in the New York Photo League. Between 1947 and 1951, Siskind exhibited regularly at Charles Egan Gallery alongside many Abstract Expressionist artists and friends. He received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. He died in Providence in 1991 at the age of 87.
Siskind’s work is included in many museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Getty Center, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.