Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to announce Ellen Auerbach: Classic Works and Collaborations. A revolutionary during the era of Germany’s Weimar Republic, Auerbach, in partnership with friend and fellow photographer Grete Stern, broke into the male-dominated field with the collaborative advertising studio “ringl + pit” during the early 1930s. Trained under Walter Peterhans of the Bauhaus school and part of the later-named New Vision movement, Stern and Auerbach as ringl + pit hovered between genres, playing with montage and elements of surrealism to blend commercial intent with fine-art aesthetics. Exemplary works by the duo include the celebrated Pétrole Hahn, 1931, in which a doll’s head is substituted for a model’s to shrewdly disrupt the traditional advertisement pose for cosmetics at the time. This satirical recasting of objects for objectified female figures carries throughout the pair’s images in our exhibition.
Parting ways from Stern, Auerbach with her husband Walter ultimately immigrated to the US after fleeing Germany upon the Nazi takeover. Yet Auerbach continued to travel extensively, one fruit of which was a 1955 partnership with photographer friend Eliot Porter documenting Mexican churches in vibrant color. Additional trips took the artist to Mallorca, Argentina, and Chile, often with a focus on photographing children, a passion which would result in a late-life career as an educational therapist. Closer to home, she captured bathers, wanderers, and fellow noteworthies like Willem de Kooning and Renate Schottelius with a frank grace. Citing the camera as a sort of “third eye,” Auerbach often stated that her intent was to find the central essence of the people and places she photographed.
Auerbach’s work, as well as her collaborations, were rediscovered much later in the artist’s life. Auerbach and Porter’s photo book Mexican Churches was finally published in 1987, and the images of ringl + pit did not emerge into the historical canon until the 1980s. Predating a major retrospective of Auerbach’s work at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin in 1998, Robert Mann Gallery’s 1994 exhibition Ellen Auerbach: From Bauhaus to God’s House was one of the first to show Auerbach’s solo work and collaborations side-by-side.