Archive for December, 2011

Then Difference Begins

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011



Diane Arbus & August Sander at Galerie Edwynn Houk, Zurich

Up to their knees, they’re identical: laced-up leather boots, pale socks, paler legs, shadow-strewn knees. Then difference begins. On the left, ruffles become a dress. On the right, checked shorts become a white shirt, become a soft bow tie knotted under a boyish face. Soft bangs falling over his forehead, he’s morose. Bows in her hair, she smiles. The little boy and girl holding hands might be twins. But the similitude does not end there. Hung near this difference-parsing, class-identifying photograph by August Sander—an elegant gelatin silver print didactically titled Middle-class Children (1925)—are Diane Arbus’s equally indelible and strangely edifying black-and-white photographic investigations of singles, couples, twins, and triplets made some four decades later. See her famous Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, NYC with their oddly mature faces and diminutive child bodies, or Triplets in Their Bedroom, N.J. (both 1963). The identical sisters are clothed as such: starched white shirts buttoned to the neck like fundamentalists, white headbands bisecting their dark, curly hair. The straight lines of their mouths mimic the line of their eyebrows, running parallel to the sad line of their eyes. Their faces conjure a perversion of Madeline’s famous rhyme: “In three straight lines they broke their bread and brushed their teeth and went to bed.”

In a 1960 letter Arbus noted, “Someone told me it is spring, but everyone today looked remarkable, just like out of August Sander pictures, so absolute and immutable down to the last button.” That she knew the German photographer’s work so well, and used a metaphor of dress to describe the social and seemingly psychological state of his subjects as an analogy to those who surrounded her, is not surprising…

[for full review, go here]

White Tights and Cigarettes or, the Critic’s Contempt for the Critic

Monday, December 12th, 2011


Culture Clash

Monday, December 5th, 2011