AMSTERDAM.- Diane Arbus (1923-1971) revolutionized the art she practiced. Her bold subject matter and photographic approach produced a body of work that is often shocking in its purity, in its steadfast celebration of things as they are. Her gift for rendering strange those things we consider most familiar, and for uncovering the familiar within the exotic, enlarges our understanding of ourselves.
Arbus found most of her subjects in New York City, a place that she explored as both a known geography and as a foreign land, photographing people she discovered during the 1950s and 1960s. She was committed to photography as a medium that tangles with the facts. Her contemporary anthropology-portraits of couples, children, carnival performers, nudists, middle-class families, transvestites, zealots, eccentrics, and celebrities-stands as an allegory of the human experience, an exploration of the relationship between appearance and identity, illusion and belief, theater and reality.
This exhibition of two hundred photographs affords an opportunity to explore the origins, scope, and aspirations of a wholly original force in photography. It includes all of the artist's iconic photographs as well as many that have never before been exhibited in the Netherlands. Even the earliest examples of her work demonstrate Arbus's distinctive sensibility through the expression on a face, someone's posture, the character of the light, and the personal implications of objects in a room or landscape. These elements, animated by the singular relationship between the photographer and her subject, conspire to implicate the viewer with the force of a personal encounter.
Much has been written and said about Diane Arbus's work since her death in 1971-so much that it has sometimes made it difficult to see the work on its own terms. Foam is pleased to present, perhaps for the first time, a major retrospective of Arbus' uniquely powerful photographs in the true eloquence of their silence. The show will enable each viewer to encounter the images much as the photographer encountered her subjects: directly and unencumbered by preconceptions.
Visitors to the exhibition seeking knowledge about Arbus's life and working methods will be able to explore three additional separate galleries containing biographical material, books, personal notebooks, correspondence and other writings in which the artist articulates the goals, obstacles, and strategies that went into making the pictures.
This exhibition has been organized by Jeu de Paume, Paris, in collaboration with the Estate of Diane Arbus LLC, New York and with the participation of Fotomuseum Winterthur and Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin.