The exhibition will be the first to focus solely on Arbus’ photographs made in Central Park and Washington Square, theaters of public interaction that provided fertile territory for the creation of many of her most striking and original images. All of the works on view were made within four miles of where they will now be exhibited.
For Arbus, the city’s parks were arenas of rich and unpredictable encounter. The exhibition will interweave rarely seen photographs, such as A very thin man in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1961, alongside well-known images such as Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962, and Young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965. The majority of these works were the result of a single chance meeting between Arbus and her subjects. Several, including Girl in a beret in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1958 and Susan Sontag and her son on bench, N.Y.C., 1965 are being exhibited here for the first time.
Arbus began photographing in Central Park in 1956, at the very beginning of her work as a serious artist, and returned repeatedly to the city’s parks over her brief, fifteen- year career. Among the last pictures in the exhibition is A young man and his girlfriend with hot dogs in the park, N.Y.C., made in 1971, the year of her death. The exhibition thus surveys the evolution of Arbus’ style (from smaller to larger negatives, from smaller to larger prints), as well as the evolution of her singular approach to the people she photographed.
Diane Arbus (1923–1971) was one of the most original and influential artists of the twentieth century. She studied photography with Berenice Abbott, Alexey Brodovitch, and Lisette Model, and her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960. In 1963 and 1966 she was awarded John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, and was one of three photographers whose work was the focus of New Documents, John Szarkowski’s landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967. A year after her death, her work was selected for inclusion in the Venice Biennale—the first work of an American photographer to be so honored. The Museum of Modern Art hosted a major retrospective that traveled throughout the United States and Canada from 1972 to 1975. A larger full scale retrospective, Diane Arbus Revelations, was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2003 and traveled to museums in the United States and Europe through 2006. A major European retrospective of Arbus’ work opened at the Jeu de Paume, Paris in October 2011 and traveled to Winterthur, Berlin and Amsterdam through 2013. More recently, Arbus’ early work was the focus of Diane Arbus: In the Beginning, organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Notable monographs on the artist’s work include Diane Arbus (1972); Magazine Work (1984); Untitled (1995); Diane Arbus Revelations (2003); Diane Arbus: A Chronology (2011), and In the Beginning (2016).