Fourth Wall

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Overview

What happens when a performing actor leaves behind his lines, staging, sets, and lighting, and steps beyond the fourth wall? For three years, Amy Arbus has been exploring this question in a series of dramatic portraits of celebrated actors, both on and off Broadway. Fully costumed but stripped of their context, Arbus's actors remain in character as they step outside the fiction of theater into the reality of the world beyond. Staged in anonymous public spaces—in theater lobbies, on city streets, in parks, and in ...

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Overview

What happens when a performing actor leaves behind his lines, staging, sets, and lighting, and steps beyond the fourth wall? For three years, Amy Arbus has been exploring this question in a series of dramatic portraits of celebrated actors, both on and off Broadway. Fully costumed but stripped of their context, Arbus's actors remain in character as they step outside the fiction of theater into the reality of the world beyond. Staged in anonymous public spaces—in theater lobbies, on city streets, in parks, and in stage door alleys—Arbus's images achieve an unexpected blend of spectacle and high art; formality and sontaneity; vulnerability and pretense.

Collected in The Fourth Wall are some of the modern stage's most gifted actors, including Alan Cumming in Cabaret, John Malkovitch in Lost Land, Liev Schreiber in Talk Radio, Ed Harris in Wrecks, Cherry Jones in Doubt, Christine Ebersol in Grey Gardens, and Ethan Hawke and Martha Plimpton in The Coast of Utopia. Actors are included from such successful and ambitioud productions as Wicked, The Light in the Piazza, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Color Purple, to name but a few. Portraits are accompanied by synopses of the plays as well as quotes from a number of the actors portrayed.

In 2006's critically acclaimed book On the Street, Arbus focused her lens on those who dressed to express themselves—now she turns her attention to those who dress to become someone else. The result is a collection of potent photographs that pay remarkable tribute to contemporary theater and the performers who bring fantasy to life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Dramatic portraits by Amy Arbus..her images achieve an unexpected blend of spectacle and high art, formality and spontaneity, vulnerability and pretense."
-Photo Review Magazine

"As a veteran photographer of 27 years and daughter of Diane Arbus, Amy Arbus has just about seen it all, but she hasn't lost her sense of awe for the magic of the theater. Her new book, The Fourth Wall, catches actors in character in 80 tritone images, many of which debuted in this magazine. The partner exhibit is a must for photo buffs and theater rats alike."

New York Magazine

"The Fourth Wall is the photographer Amy Arbus's fourth book of pictures, and it is her masterpiece. Taken over the course of three years, the images are of actors acting, but they are not onstage. Arbus has posed her subjects backstage, or outside, near the theaters where they are set to perform. The title refers to the curtain of disbelief one must draw in an effort to pretend that the action onstage is somehow natural, and Arbus's images are about adults who believe in the transformative effect of fairy tales—and greasepaint. In these square-format black-and-white photographs, Arbus captures a moment of being someone else. In one expectionally powerful portrait, we see the great artist, Judy Garland, in "The Boy from Oz" (2004). Tiny and forlorn but still forceful, standing in the alley leading to the stage door, Keating is raising her right hand in a kind of Judy-like offering of the soul. But you can tell that Keating would never give herself up, not entirely, to a photographer, unless she could be someone other than herself. You get the picture.

The New Yorker

"Amy Arbus (Diane's daughter) put some of theater's big names in costume and took them—literally—Off-Broadway."

People Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599620442
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 11.38 (w) x 12.64 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Arbus has been photographing professionally for twenty-seven years. She is a contributing photographer to New York Magazine's theater section. Her photograph of The House in Town was included in the PDN Annual 2007 as one of the top twenty-five photographs of the year. Her photographs have appeared in over one hundred periodicals around the world, including The New Yorker, Aperture, People, and The New York Times Magazine. Her most recent book of photographs, On the Street, was published by Welcome Books in 2006. She has exhibited her photography worldwide in more than eighteen one-woman exhibitions, and her photographs are a part of the collections at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Out of Context yet In Character

    Amy Arbus' fascination with the theater is celebrated in this fine collection of large photographs called 'the fourth wall' - one additional dimension to the life of the actor on the stage portraying characters in a play, yet taking those actors out of context and placing them in the streets in surroundings that carry the fantasy or illusion of theater into the clangor of daily life.

    The photographs themselves are carefully staged and well constructed, a trademark for this fine artist who carries her heritage form her mother Diane Arbus to even higher extremes. Both artists are concerned with the theatrics of real life - Diane with the accidents of nature, Amy with the magnification of make believe. The photographs in this collection have been seen in other publications (though some appear here for the first time), but the pleasure in thumbing through the many pages of these well known actors, in costume from particular plays, re-posed in a non-proscenium arch in the theater of life in which we all live, gives the felling of sitting with this book a ticket to the inner lives of actors and the playwrights from whose works these excerpts were transplanted. Each photograph is accompanied by a capsule of the play in question - along with some commentary that adds to the flavor of the monograph.

    This is a book that will please collectors of fine art photography as well as devotees of the theater an those curious about the off stage appearances of our finest actors along Broadway. Grady Harp

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