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La Casa Encendida Presents the Exhibition Portraits of New York: Photographs from the MoMA
Bruce Davidson, Untitled, from the Brooklyn Band Series, 1959. Gelatin silver print, 17.1 x 25.4 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquisition © 2009 Bruce Davidson.

NEW YORK, NY.- La Casa Encendida of Obra Social Caja Madrid and the Museum of Modern Art of New York – with the support of the International Council of the MoMA – have organised the exhibition Portraits of New York: Photographs from the MoMA, which will provide an in-depth look at an essential component of the MoMA’s assets: its photography collection. Curated by Sarah Hermanson Meister, associate curator of the museum’s department of photography, the exhibition offers an overview of the history of photography through the work of over 90 artists, with the iconic city as a backdrop. It includes some of the most prestigious names in photography, such as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walter Evans, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, Cindy Sherman, Irving Penn and Alfred Stieglitz.

For Sarah Hermanson Meister, associate curator of the MoMA’s Department of Photography, “Portraits of New York amply reflects the history of synergies of this medium and of the Big Apple during a period of important transformations for both. The photographs generated by the restless and constant commitment of numerous photographers to the city of New York have played a fundamental role in determining how New Yorkers perceive the city and themselves. These photographs have also defined the city’s image in the world’s imagination.

[…] The urban landscape of the city is a combination of the old and the new in constant evolution, and these physical transformations are repeated in the demographic changes that have characterised the city since the 1880s, when massive waves of immigrants began to arrive. This same diversity can be seen in the photography of New York of the past four decades. Just as its architects are inspired and limited by surrounding structures and building codes, and just as its inhabitants learn and rub up against each other and previous generations, so too the photographers of New York transport the visual memory of a an extensive and extraordinary repertoire of images of the city. They take on the challenge of creating new works that go beyond traditions and respond to what is new in New York.”

Sarah Hermanson Meister on the Exhibition Cataloque
“In recent years, the Department of Photography of the Museum of Modern Art has analysed the vital relationship that exists between photography and New York City from different angles. After 11 September 2001, the department’s team of curators worked on an exhibition called Life of the City, which included selected works from the museum’s collection that reviewed New York’s notable and long-standing photographic tradition and the creation of images about the city itself that have characterised the 20th century. This collection reveals the full scope of the symbiotic relationship between photography and the city where the museum is located, and offers a perspective of the history of photography through countless different views of this constantly mutating city and of its colourful population. […] Portraits of New York is a novel expansion on this fertile theme and features approximately 150 photographs of New York from the museum’s own collection. In addition to iconic gems by legendary photographers, this selection also includes some of my favourite works. Together, these pieces comprise an idiosyncratic exhibit that stretches from 1888 to 2005.”

New York, Capital of the World
The exhibition curator continues: “Throughout the 20th century, numerous artists have felt inspired by New York’s combination of glamour and rawness. The city – which acquired its modernity at the same pace as photography, and in an equally impetuous and undisciplined way – has always been a theme of particular vitality for photographers, both those who have visited the city and those who live in it. On one occasion, faced with the challenge of capturing the essence of New York with a camera, the photographer Berenice Abbott wondered, “How shall the two-dimensional print in black and white suggest the flux of activity of the metropolis, the interaction of human beings and solid architectural constructions, all impinging upon each other in time?” Each of the photographs reproduced here is a unique response to that question.

New York may not be the capital of the United States, but it prides itself on being the capital of the world. Its inhabitants are intimate strangers, its avenues are constantly teeming and its buildings are absolutely unmistakeable, though they are packed so close together that it is impossible to see just one. The New York subway runs twenty-four hours a day, which has earned it the sobriquet of “the city that never sleeps.” It is the model for Gotham City, the disturbing metropolis that Batman calls home, and a symbol of independence and a wellspring of opportunities in a wide variety of films, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Working Girl. And this is just a sample of the captivating and abundant raw material that the city offers to artists, regardless of the medium in which they work. However, it is the convergence of photographers in this city – in this place that combines anonymity and community, with its local flavour and global ambitions – that has created the ideal setting for the development of modern photography.”

Videomix: Portraits of New York
Videomix: Portraits of New York is a programme of film pieces that will be repeated every Tuesday in April. It was conceived as an extension of the photography exhibition by the same name and acts as a bridge between the still and the moving image. The programme consists of a series of films made by photographers which explore the complicities between the worlds of photography and film, in both their documentary and fictional facets. All of the pieces revolve around a single common denominator: New York City, a metropolis that has extolled modern life since the dawn of the 20th century.

The programme will feature tributes to New York City such as Manhatta by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand (1921), Weegee’s New York by Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1952) and The Pursuit of Happiness by Rudy Burckhardt (1940); a portrayal of the Beat Generation in Pull My Daisy by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie (1959), based on an unfinished work by Jack Kerouac; and life on the streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side recorded by a hidden camera in the dynamic short film In the Street by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb and James Agee (1952).

Documentary Photography Workshop with Tod Papageorge
Tod Papageorge, one of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibition and head of Yale University’s graduate photography department, will give a course on the evolution of documentary photography over the past 30 years on 4 and 5 May. The course will analyse the American documentary style and its tremendous influence on the evolution of contemporary photography around the world.

Tod Papageorge (1940) has directed the graduate photography department at Yale University since 1979, where he has educated students of the stature of Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Abelardo Morell, Susan Lipper and Gregory Crewdson. His interest in photography was sparked upon discovering the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson during his last year at the University of New Hampshire, where he received a degree in English literature in 1962. From that moment on, Papageorge began to build up a documentary oeuvre centred on New York City. He has received two Guggenheim fellowships and his work can be found in the collections of the MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2007, he published two books: Passing through Eden, which features the collection of photographs taken over the last 25 years in Central Park, and American Sports, 1970: Or How We Spent the War in Vietnam, an overview of his work in the 1970s.

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