Magazine article Artforum International

"Diane Arbus, A Printed Retrospective, 1960-1971"

Magazine article Artforum International

"Diane Arbus, A Printed Retrospective, 1960-1971"

Article excerpt

NO ONE COMES TO DIANE ARBUS without a bushel of prejudices. She is the most demonized of the 1960s street photographers, so freighted by her reputation as bad girl and victimizer that it is almost impossible to truly look at her work. In "Pierre Leguillon features: Diane Arbus, A Printed Retrospective, 1960-1971," recently on view at the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, however, this is exactly what French Conceptual artist Pierre Leguillon attempted to make us do. To create the show, he trawled the Internet for issues of Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, Nova, and other English-language magazines that employed Arbus during the '60s. Leguillon then removed more than a hundred pages from the magazines and exhibited them in the foundation's Montmartre storefront gallery. He thereby not only ingeniously circumvented the notoriously censorious Arbus estate but also allowed us to look beyond both the controversy surrounding her work and the backstory of her sexual adventures and 1971 suicide. If many of the images were uncannily familiar, they here appeared unburdened by the distinctly American critique of representation: We were invited to see the Arbus legacy at rest, returned to some idea of an original state, and quieted by the mundane scale and material qualities of the magazines themselves. As Arbus has herself been anointed a "freak" since her death, to use her own term for her favorite subjects, the endeavor was most welcome.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Layouts that surprised and delighted included photographs of Jorge Luis Borges and his wife in Central Park, accompanied by three of his poems (from Harper's Bazaar, March 1969); urbanist Jane Jacobs and her teenage activistson Ned, their faces framed by identical horn-rimmed glasses (from Esquire, July 1965); and a portrait of artist Ad Reinhardt with accompanying essay by Annette Michelson (from Harper's Bazaar, November 1966). Leguillon also sampled Arbus-related imagery, including the twins in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, a recent New Yorker cartoon, and photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans and Annie Leibovitz, portraitists with comparable clout and candor. This was decidedly the most opaque aspect of Leguillon's project, which otherwise offered a means to reexamine the dividing lines between critique and authorship, biography and methodology, photography and its interpretations.

Leguillon deployed his collection as a conceptual artwork: It was the exhibition-as-medium. Driven by an interest in the genealogy of photographs, their reproducibility and portability--linked, he says, to artists such as Christopher Williams or Robert Filliou more than to Arbus herself--he mounted the magazine pages on the walls between nonreflective museum glass and plywood of roughly the same thickness as the original magazines. The arrangements were hung at various heights (as at a news kiosk) and echoed page layouts, while the original issues were stacked on the floor, their removed pages tabbed for restoration. A custom shipping crate evoking those in Marcel Broodthaers's Musee d'Art Moderne, Departement des Aigles, 1968-72, was offered as seating.

But the conceptualism of Leguillon's display contrasted sharply with the content-laden magazine pages themselves. Reconstituted with their captions in illustrated press stories, Arbus's images here found a revivified sense of authenticity and newsworthiness, allowing her once again to recede behind her subjects. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.