Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Richard Avedon - Portraits of Power"

Below, "Jerome Smith & Isaac Reynolds," (1963), Richard Avedon.
Above, "The Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Convention, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.," Richard Avedon.
Below, right, "Daughters of Revolution," Grant Wood (not in the exhibition - but of course, one can't help but to recall it).
Below, left, "Art Alive," interpretive floral displays that effectively blocked art from being  viewed, San Diego Museum of Art.

Should you get a chance this summer to head down to San Diego, try to see the 
impressive collection of Avedon's photographs questioning exactly who the "Power Players" were from the 1950's to 2004. This is the only west coast showing of these photographs, made by Avedon, who died at the age of 81, in 2004. Located at 1450, El Prado, the museum's hours are: Tues. - Sat., 10 - 5; Sun. noon - 5; closed on Mon.; open on Thurs. until 9 PM. Fortunately, the distracting floral displays were banned from this traveling exhibition, but do manage to insert themselves into almost every other aspect of the museum. 
The show opens with an imposingly large black & white (& more than slightly soft focused) portrait of Charlie Chaplin, and terminates with an equally discerning, high-def digital color portrait of Barack Obama. While of the figures are dispassionately posed against Avedon's flat white backdrop, a few of the writers & musicians are presented in city streets - notable among them, an impossibly young Bob Dylan. 
In an article titled "Players & Contenders" from 9/27/08 in "The Guardian," Simon Schama wrote: "The effect is to evoke presence more distinctively than any other photographer who has ever turned their hand to portraiture; more powerfully than Matthew Brady, Julia Margaret Cameron, August Sander or Alfred Stieglitz. For, like Rembrandt, Avedon caught the shorthand signature of an entire life, and the pose became a print of individual spirit."

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