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New from Steidl: "The Unknown Berenice Abbott" edited by Ron Kurtz and Hank O'Neal
Gerhard Steidl had published the two volume Berenice Abbott in 2008 and Documenting Science in 2012.


NEW YORK, NY.- Berenice Abbott was one of the most versatile photographic artists of the twentieth century and her work has been published and publicized since the beginning of her career in 1925. She is best known for her Paris portraits of the 1920s and her documentation of New York City in the 1930s but, like most great artists, Abbott’s reputation has rested on a small portion of her life’s work. For every time one of her most famous photographs has been published there are many others that could have served the same purpose but were not used because they are less well known.

In Abbott’s case there is an unusually large body of unknown work because during the most potentially creative time of her life, the circumstances of her existence were very complicated, largely due to lack of work and income, particularly between the years 1929 to 35 and 1940 to 1959. Many of the photographs she did manage to create in those years were not sufficiently commercial to attract a publisher and she was financially unable to publicize them on her own, develop a project to its natural conclusion or, in some instances, even undertake a project of interest. The Unknown Abbott attempts to correct this situation and make some of Abbott’s outstanding but largely unknown work available to a wider public.

Gerhard Steidl had published the two volume Berenice Abbott in 2008 and Documenting Science in 2012. These books are currently out of print but are going to be reissued by Steidl in the near future. Steidl met with the editors Hank O’Neal and Ron Kurtz in late January 2011 to discuss future Abbott projects. This was when they began thinking of a series of Abbott books, dealing with various aspects of her career. Hank O’Neal and Ron Kurtz have chosen to present five volumes of work, ranging from her earliest photographs in New York City to documents of American cities before the Civil War, vigorous lumberjacks in California’s High Sierra Mountains, the sophisticated bohemia of Greenwich Village as well as the amusements of Daytona Beach.

The Unknown Abbott is a very ambitious project that will present hundreds of outstanding Abbott images for the first time. Her reputation is already very secure, but these previously unknown images will further clarify the range of her photographic activity beyond her portraits in Paris, Changing New York and Documenting Science.

Volume I
New York – Early Work 1929-1931

Berenice Abbott returned to New York from Paris in 1929. Her plan was to continue her career as a portraitist and begin to document the city she’d come to love. The Crash of 1929 sidetracked Abbott; her portrait business collapsed and she was unable to fund her documentary project of the city. Undaunted, she continued to photograph New York with a small, hand-held camera, making sketches for large format photographs she wished to take in the future. These photographs are Abbott’s first work in New York and are not only extraordinary but have rarely been seen or published.

Volume II
The American Scene, 1930 – 1935

The great American economic depression of the early 1930s hit Abbott very hard. Portraits and other photographic assignments were a luxury most people could not afford. As she struggled during these years Abbott did undertake three projects, two with the support of the architectural historian, Henry Russell Hitchcock, and one on her own.

The two Hitchcock assignments resulted in photographic trips throughout America in 1933 and 1934, and exhibitions in 1934 and 1936, entitled American Cities Before the Civil War – The Urban Vernacular of the Thirties, Forties and Fifties and, respectively, The Architecture of H.H. Richardson. Abbott also undertook a photographic journey in 1935 that took her to Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois where she photographed a number of subjects reminiscent of the best work of the Farm Security Administration photographers who were just beginning their monumental project. These photographs are not only outstanding but are largely unknown since they have been rarely seen since the 1930s.

Volume III
Deep Woods, 1943 and 1967

In 1943, Abbott was asked to document the Red River Logging Company in California’s High Sierra Mountains. It was her first assignment of this sort but not her last; she would document the remote Main holdings of the Great Northern Paper Company in the winter of 1967. Both of these assignments led to outstanding photographs. The Red River photographs were widely seen in a series of exhibitions in 1943/44 and some of the 1967 photographs were reproduced in Abbott’s book A Portrait of Maine (1967). This is the first publication for the majority of these images.

Volume IV
Greenwich Village

In 1918, Abbott left Ohio for New York’s Greenwich Village where she lived until she went to Europe in the early 1920s. The “village” became her home again in the mid- 1930s and she maintained her Commerce Street studio until she “retired” to Maine in 1966. The first of her Greenwich Village photographs date from 1935 and were part of her project Changing New York. She also took portraits of many of her celebrated friends who also lived or worked in this special part of New York City and then in 1946 - 7 took many more photographs that were included in the book, Greenwich Village – Today and Yesterday. This is the fist time Abbott’s Greenwich Village photographs have been presented as a group, the first time many have been seen since publication in 1947 and the first publication of many of the images.

Volume V
U.S. 1, U.S.A
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The automobile has long been pervasive in American life and in 1951 Abbott began to feel the passenger car was doing irreparable harm to the American landscape. She wanted to translate her feelings into photographs and in 1954 this project became possible. She traveled the length of U. S. Route 1, from Fr. Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida, and back again, accumulating thousands of pictures. It was a project that anticipated what Robert Frank was to do a few years later with The Americans.

Abbott tried repeatedly to sell her project to publishers throughout the 1950s and it was always rejected. This is the first publication for almost all of these photographs, and is the last great, unpublished Abbott project. It also includes very atypical subject matter and her first experimental work in color.





Today's News

January 10, 2014

Philadelphia Museum of Art acquires the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection of Art

Christie's New York announces the return of the Renaissance Sale on January 29

New from Steidl: "The Unknown Berenice Abbott" edited by Ron Kurtz and Hank O'Neal

A rare self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi leads Christie's Old Master Paintings Sale Part I

"The Image Gallery Redux: 1959-1962" opens at Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York

Two major bodies of works by artist Emil Lukas on view at Sperone Westwater

Hong Kong's first major international auction of Chinese stamps in 2014 expected to bring over HK$60 million

Sensational Pointers lead the way at Bonhams dogs in Show & Field Sale set for February 12

A Chromatic Loss: Group exhibition curated by Jeffrey Uslip opens at Bortolami

Face in the Crowds: Lehmann Maupin opens exhibitions of Alex Prager's new body of work

David Zwirner debuts a new film by Stan Douglas featuring a band of professional musicians

Exhibition at Edwynn Houk Gallery highlights a cross-section of Danny Lyon's celebrated career

Rarely-seen Jane Morris portrait now on display at the De Morgan Centre in London

New US State Department award for work in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Sotheby's appoints Sharon Chan as Head of Watches Asia

A series of visceral photographic studies of animal remains by Alex Van Gelder on view at Hauser and Wirth

Jason Stopa's first solo show in Manhattan opens at Novella

MIA in MIA: Lyons Wier Gallery opens group exhibition

"Edwin Ruda: The Band Paintings (1969 - 1972)" opens at Berry Campbell

"The Space Beyond" curated by Katharina Bosse opens at The Camera Club of New York

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