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Photos Take Spotlight at CAM

By Steven Rosen · April 22nd, 2009 · The Big Picture

It’s been a slow start with an unexpected delay, but James Crump, the new curator of photography at the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM), has his first show, Garry Winogrand: Women Are Beautiful, opening soon.

The exhibition is an attempt to champion the reputation of a post-World War II American “street-life” photographer whose legacy has slipped somewhat while other museums have had recent big shows devoted to such contemporaries as Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, William Eggleston and Diane Arbus.

Winogrand, who died in 1984 of cancer at age 56, was renowned in the 1960s and 1970s for shooting New York street scenes during a time when Manhattan was teeming with social and cultural change — including what people wanted to wear and the way they wanted to look in public. The work in this show focuses on young women of the time and their fashions.

The exhibition opens May 30 and runs through Aug. 23. It will consist primarily of a portfolio of 85 black-and-white prints produced in 1981, following a book called Women Are Beautiful that Winogrand published in 1975. (It was his second book.) An anonymous San Francisco collector has lent the prints for the show.

This will be the first time the series has been exhibited in Cincinnati. Crump previously edited a book of Winogrand’s work titled 1964.

“It’s a very interesting body of work by a very enigmatic photographer we know a lot about but of whom there’s still a lot to learn,” Crump recently told an audience at the museum.

Of his Women Are Beautiful work, Winogrand once said, “I respond to their energies, how they stand and move their bodies and faces. In the end, the photographs are descriptions of poses or attitudes that give an idea, a hint, of their energies. I don’t know if all the women in the photographs are beautiful, but I do know that the women are beautiful in the photographs.”

Actually, Crump’s first show — which would have opened earlier this year — was to be Variety: Photographs by Nan Goldin, which compiled still photographs that Goldin, known for her chronicling of the often squalid but exciting, sexually charged post-Punk lifestyle of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, took for Bette Gordon’s 1983 independent movie called Variety. Crump is the editor of a book on this subject, scheduled for September release. However, according to museum, the show was canceled due to copyright problems and there are no plans to revive it.

The Goldin show would have been a fitting debut for Crump, who came to Cincinnati last August. His most widely known work of scholarship to date has been a film he directed, Black, White Gray, that looked into a similar milieu as Goldin’s photos, focusing on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe; his partner, art collector Sam Wagstaff; and their friend, Rock musician Patti Smith. (It’s available from the Cincinnati Public Library.)

Looking ahead, CAM is working on two additional, virtually simultaneous photography shows: Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980 will be presented Feb. 13 to May 9 next year and Walker Evans: Decade by Decade will be up from Feb. 13-May 3. Both will be connected to books that Crump has forthcoming next year.

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: srosen@citybeat.com



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