This Exhibition Has Ended

September 5, 2015
December 20, 2015
In the Gold Gallery

With a renewed commitment to photography at the Johnson, we present another in a recent series of thematic exhibitions drawn predominantly from the photography collection. While Staged, Performed, Manipulated investigated the constructedness of photography, The City takes a closer look at how photographers have responded to the urban environment in the last century.

The majority of photographs on view show either cityscapes or slices of life in New York and Los Angeles, illustrating the immense differences between the development of East versus West Coast cities. While canyons formed by skyscrapers and the people making their lives within them dominate the images of New York, the infrastructure of Los Angeles seems to revolve around the automobile and four-lane highways, famously conceptualized in Ed Ruscha’s 1966 book Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Other photographs in the exhibition by Bill Owens, Robbert Flick, Douglas Hill, and John Humble—part of the Los Angeles Documentary Project portfolio organized by the National Endowment for the Arts—were intended to be a visual examination of the sociological and topographical diversity of the city. A Creative Artists Public Service Program (CAPS) portfolio (funded by New York State Council on the Arts in 1970–71) had similar intentions in New York, including photographs by Robert D’Alessandro and Leonard Freed with a particular focus on issues related to race and class.

Iconic images by Berenice Abbott and Margaret Bourke-White of New York’s skyline and bridges are interspersed with images of everyday women on the street, animals in zoos, antiwar demonstrators, Beatlemania, and car culture by Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank. Views of reflective street windows and oversize shop signs by Elliott Erwitt and William Klein lend a surrealist spin to daily life in postwar America. Other photographers in the exhibition include Aaron Siskind, Louis Stettner, Gordon Parks, Robert Doisneau, Lewis Hine, Helen Levitt, Lee Friedlander, Danny Lyon, Michael Ashkin, Harry Callahan, Lucien Clergue, André Kertész, Joel Meyerowitz, Richard Kalvar, Leon Levinstein, and Thomas Struth. 

This exhibition also features a selection of photographs by Joe Conzo, Jr., whose archive of over ten thousand negatives and prints are part of the Cornell Hip Hop Collection at the Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. The photographs, taken mostly in the Bronx and Harlem between 1977 and 1984, offer a window into the early years of hip hop’s development on the East Coast to highlight the enduring bonds between this world renowned musical genre and the urban spaces and communities from which it emerged. 


This exhibition was curated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art & photography, and Sonja Gandert, curatorial assistant, at the Johnson Museum.