The first retrospective in 25 years of work by Garry Winogrand (1928–1984)—the renowned photographer of New York City and of American life from the 1950s through the early 1980s—will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on June 27, 2014. Garry Winogrand brings together more than 175 of the artist's most iconic images, a trove of unseen prints, and even Winogrand’s famed series of photos made at the Metropolitan Museum in 1969 when the Museum celebrated its centennial. This exhibition offers a rigorous overview of Winogrand's complete working life and reveals for the first time the full sweep of his career.
The exhibition is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The international tour of this exhibition is sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Leadership support is provided by Randi and Bob Fisher.
Additional support is provided by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation.
Born in the Bronx, Winogrand did much of his best-known work in Manhattan during the 1960s, and in both the content of his photographs and his artistic style he became one of the principal voices of that eruptive decade. Known primarily as a street photographer, Winogrand, who is often associated with famed contemporaries Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander, photographed with dazzling energy and incessant appetite, exposing some 20,000 rolls of film in his short lifetime. He photographed business moguls, everyday women on the street, famous actors and athletes, hippies, politicians, soldiers, animals in zoos, rodeos, car culture, airports, and antiwar demonstrators and the construction workers who beat them bloody in view of the unmoved police. Daily life in postwar America—rich with new possibility and yet equally anxious, threatening to spin out of control—seemed to unfold for him in a continuous stream.
Winogrand was also an avid traveler who roamed widely around the United States, bringing exquisite work out of locations that included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Ohio, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Colorado, and the open country of the Southwest. "You could say that I am a student of photography," he said, "and I am; but really I'm a student of America." Winogrand's expansive visual catalogue of the nation's evolving social scene has led to comparisons to Walt Whitman, who also unspooled the world in endless lists of people, places, and things.
Winogrand's pictures often bulge with 20 or 30 figures, and are fascinating both for their dramatic foregrounds and the sub-events at their edges. Even when crowded with people or at their most lighthearted—he was fond of visual puns and was drawn to the absurd—his pictures convey a feeling of human isolation, hinting at something darker beneath the veneer of the American dream. Early on, some critics considered his pictures formally "shapeless" and "random," but admirers and critics later found a unique poetry in his tilted horizons and his love of the haphazard.
After serving in the military as a weather forecaster, Winogrand first began working as a photographer while studying painting on the G.I. Bill at Columbia University (1948–51).
During that time, he also studied briefly with Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research. While pursuing his personal work, he began supplying commercial photographs to a number of general-interest magazines such as Life, Look, Sports Illustrated, Collier's, and Pageant, which were then at the height of their power and reach. His career was shaped further by the decline of those magazines and the rise of a new culture of photography centered in the art world.
While Winogrand is widely considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, his overall body of work and influence on the field remain incompletely explored. He was enormously prolific but largely postponed the editing and printing of his work. The act of taking pictures was far more fulfilling to Winogrand than making prints or editing for books and exhibitions—he often allowed others to perform these tasks for him. Dying suddenly at the age of 56, he left behind approximately 6,500 rolls of film (some 250,000 images) that he had never seen, as well as proof sheets from his earlier years that he had marked but never printed.