Walker Evans

Walker Evans

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by Maria Morris Hambourg, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Douglas Eklund, Mia Fineman
     
 

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A tenant farmer's deprivation-lined face. Antebellum homes that have seen better days. The display windows of small-town main streets. The early subway commuter. Billboards. The images made by photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975) are icons of national identity that have shaped Americans' views of themselves and directly influenced important currents of modern art.… See more details below

Overview

A tenant farmer's deprivation-lined face. Antebellum homes that have seen better days. The display windows of small-town main streets. The early subway commuter. Billboards. The images made by photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975) are icons of national identity that have shaped Americans' views of themselves and directly influenced important currents of modern art. This major catalogue -- published to accompany a retrospective exhibition originating at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and traveling to San Francisco and Houston -- presents the full range of Evans's work, from his 1920s black-and-white street scenes of anonymous urban dwellers to the color photographs of signs and letter forms from his final years.

Soon after he returned from Paris to New York City in 1927, Evans began contributing to the development of American photography. He captured the substance of people and buildings with a spare elegance that is utterly unpretentious. His gaze is serious but often amused as well, direct yet never simple. During the 1930s, Evans traveled throughout the South to chronicle the effects of economic hardship. The time that he and writer James Agee spent with Alabama sharecropper families yielded an evocative, honest record of the Great Depression, which was published in book form as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). Evans then turned his lens back on New Yorkers, photographing subway riders with a camera hidden in his coat. He continued to influence American self-perception as staff photographer for Fortune from 1945 until he accepted a professorship at Yale in 1965.

Evans -- who always chose art over what he criticized as artiness -- wrote, in Photography (1969), "Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts. This man is in effect a voyeur by nature; he is also reporter, tinkerer, and spy."

Although his work has received many awards, been enshrined in the best museums, and been exhibited on several continents, Evans's total corpus is only now being fully examined. This important book revises our appreciation of Evans by presenting previously unknown material in an accessible context. Essays by Maria Morris Hambourg, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Doug Eklund, and Mia Fineman offer novel insights into the sources and legacy of Evans's work. The result is a superb exploration of what was achieved by one of our finest, mostly deeply American artists.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
A masterly catalog . . . [The curators] have contributed the book's six learned and lucid essays. . . . The reproductions show the range of Evan's work, while the essays provide context for his achievements. . .
— Rosemary Ranck
Burlington Magazine
Walker Evans is stylishly written and a delight to read . . . [He] became the essential American photographer of his time: and this is his essential book.
— Mark Haworth-Booth
Baltimore Sun
[These] images have by now seeped so deeply into America's collective national unconscious that hardly anyone can visualize what the country looked like 75 years ago outside the context of Evans's iconic images.
— Glenn McNatt
Art & Antiques
Even in the presence of the deepest poverty, Evans' eye remained fixed on the kind of poetic perception that is the glory of his work.
— Hilton Kramer
Art on Paper
This is a book on Evan's photography, not on his life. . . [and it includes] a series of focused, well written essays, on his development as an artist.
— Jean Dykstra
The Village Voice
Evans captured the wounded, striving, uncertain soul of America in the 1930's, and set it down with one of the most detached mindful touches in photographic history.
— Jerry Saltz
The Philadelphia Inquirer
This illuminating volume includes more than 175 of Evans' finest photographs. Essays by the authors draw on newly accessible diaries, papers, and negatives now at the Walker Evans Archive at the Metropolitan that provide us with a Walker Evans that no one knew.
— Bonnie Weller
The New Yorker
All photographs capture light; Evans managed to seal and store it so securely that, like a day remembered as endless, it may never run out. . . .The crystalline rightness of his composition makes you think . . . of a guy going out on a road, like a hunter or salesman, and gazing at places until they bequeath the beauty of their natural form, as if it were hidden already, and needed only patience to flush it out.
— Anthony Lane
San Diego Union-Tribune
A first-class catalog. . . . . The nearly 200 lushly reproduced black-and-white and color photographs prove . . . objectivity and a direct style should not be confused with lack of passion. The effort of photography, both physically and emotionally, is to compose poetry with images.
— Roni Galgano
Art Journal
Evans has long been established as a master, a maker of individual images that are authoritative in both technique and theme. . . . [Walker Evans] is destined to become the standard reference for Evans's career.
New York Times Book Review - Rosemary Ranck
A masterly catalog . . . [The curators] have contributed the book's six learned and lucid essays. . . . The reproductions show the range of Evan's work, while the essays provide context for his achievements. . .
Burlington Magazine - Mark Haworth-Booth
Walker Evans is stylishly written and a delight to read . . . [He] became the essential American photographer of his time: and this is his essential book.
Baltimore Sun - Glenn McNatt
[These] images have by now seeped so deeply into America's collective national unconscious that hardly anyone can visualize what the country looked like 75 years ago outside the context of Evans's iconic images.
The Village Voice - Jerry Saltz
Evans captured the wounded, striving, uncertain soul of America in the 1930's, and set it down with one of the most detached mindful touches in photographic history.
San Diego Union-Tribune - Roni Galgano
A first-class catalog. . . . . The nearly 200 lushly reproduced black-and-white and color photographs prove . . . objectivity and a direct style should not be confused with lack of passion. The effort of photography, both physically and emotionally, is to compose poetry with images.
Art & Antiques - Hilton Kramer
Even in the presence of the deepest poverty, Evans' eye remained fixed on the kind of poetic perception that is the glory of his work.
The Philadelphia Inquirer - Bonnie Weller
This illuminating volume includes more than 175 of Evans' finest photographs. Essays by the authors draw on newly accessible diaries, papers, and negatives now at the Walker Evans Archive at the Metropolitan that provide us with a Walker Evans that no one knew.
The New Yorker - Anthony Lane
All photographs capture light; Evans managed to seal and store it so securely that, like a day remembered as endless, it may never run out. . . .The crystalline rightness of his composition makes you think . . . of a guy going out on a road, like a hunter or salesman, and gazing at places until they bequeath the beauty of their natural form, as if it were hidden already, and needed only patience to flush it out.
Art on Paper - Jean Dykstra
This is a book on Evan's photography, not on his life. . . [and it includes] a series of focused, well written essays, on his development as an artist.
" Art Journal jamin Lima

Evans has long been established as a master, a maker of individual images that are authoritative in both technique and theme. . . . [Walker Evans] is destined to become the standard reference for Evans's career.
Martin Levin
In the wake of James Mellow's major biography last year comes this splendid study accompanying a retrospective of the works of Evans (1903-1975), at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Evans was perhaps most famous for his collaboration with James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1936), which fixed forever our notion of the Depression. But he was a pellucid observer of so much else too: the American South, urban life, streetscapes. He is to photography as Edward Hopper is to painting.
Toronto Globe & Mail
Rosemary Ranck
He created a photographic style that gave the illusion of objectivity and, as proof of his success in elevating the status of the documentary photograph, the Museum of Modern Art chose him as the first photographer to have a solo exhibit, in 1938. In 1994 the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the entire Evans collection, an unmined trove of papers, personal memorabilia and disintegrating negatives. Five years of sifting, sorting, conserving, printing, researching, writing, organizing and fund-raising have resulted in a notable archive, a major exhibition and a masterly catalog, Walker Evans.
New York Times Book Review
Seattle Times
Though Walker Evans died in 1975, the body of work of one of American's pre-eminent photographers continues to radiate what his colleague James Agee called "the cruel radiance of what is." Evans' life has been reprised by a number of recent books, including a reissue of Agee's and Evans' "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" by Houghton Mifflin. Here are two more: "Walker Evans" by Maria Morris Hambourg, is a companion volume to an exhibit of Evans' work now on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (the exhibit will appear at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from June 2 through Sept. 12). The book and exhibit span Evans' career, from his photographs of the rural South during the Depression to his late-career Polaroid abstractions.
Roni Galgano
Objectivity and a direct style should not be confused with lack of passion. The effort of photography itself, both physically and emotionally, is to compose poetry with images. "Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts," Evans wrote. "This man is in effect a voyeur by nature; he is also reporter, tinkerer, and spy....What keeps him going is pure absorption, incurable childishness." Evans kept shooting all his life, changing his focus, later in his career, from street photography and hidden camera subway portraits to Fortune magazine staffer and experimenter with color Polaroid photos.
San Diego Union
Mark Haworth-Booth
This book restores him to the grandeur of his vision. Unlike rather too many books on photography from university presses, Walker Evans is stylishly written and a delight to read.
—(Burlington Magazine,November 2000)
Library Journal
Walker Evans, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's catalog to its current major retrospective, is a rock-solid work providing biographical, historical, and visual accounts of the artist's life and work. Hambourg, an assistant curator in the museum's Department of Photography, edited this big book with the straightforward approach that Evans employed in his art. Careful reproduction of well-known black-and-white and little-known color photographs by Evans forms the heart of the volume. There are quality essays here as well, biographical and analytical writing that effectively places Evans's visual efforts in social and territorial context. From the self-portrait on the cover to the notebook entries to the many photographs clustered along the way, Unclassified: A Walker Evans Anthology quickly broadens the popular view of the photographer as a chronicler of 1930s America with black-and-white film in his camera. Gathered from many files in the large and varied Evans Archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these collected writings, photos, and ephemera give us a socially concerned writer, artist, and meticulous keeper of his life's work along with his opinions and his collections of postcards. This version of Evans shakes him free of any narrow channel in which we placed him. He led a robust life, and the stillness that comes from his Depression-era work is shaken up by this energized look at the photographer. Walker Evans pointed a camera at his world and let the documentary result speak as his art. Chief curator in the Museum of Modern Art's Department of Photography, Galassi has taken that objective eye as his theme. Gathering over 300 works from several media by 100 artists, Galassigives us a volume of reportorial art, showing people, places, and things in "as is" condition. Evans touched people with his photographs because he merged his images with their "real lives." The question of whether other artists using other means were influenced by Evans's work or simply liberated to offer a visual vernacular landscape is incidental here. Galassi's book succeeds because his choices match his theme so well and play off the many examples of Evans's work that unite these pages. Though the Metropolitan catalog is the first choice for purchase, all three books are well recommended for all types of libraries and essential for serious art collections.--David Bryant, New Canaan Lib., CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From the Publisher

"A masterly catalog . . . [The curators] have contributed the book's six learned and lucid essays. . . . The reproductions show the range of Evan's work, while the essays provide context for his achievements. . . "--Rosemary Ranck, New York Times Book Review

"Walker Evans is stylishly written and a delight to read . . . [He] became the essential American photographer of his time: and this is his essential book."--Mark Haworth-Booth, Burlington Magazine

"[These] images have by now seeped so deeply into America's collective national unconscious that hardly anyone can visualize what the country looked like 75 years ago outside the context of Evans's iconic images."--Glenn McNatt, Baltimore Sun

"Evans captured the wounded, striving, uncertain soul of America in the 1930's, and set it down with one of the most detached mindful touches in photographic history."--Jerry Saltz, The Village Voice

"This remarkable catalogue of an exhibition now at the Museum of Art in New York City gives us a wonderfully condensed look at the scope of [Evans's] achievement."--Publishers Weekly

"A first-class catalog. . . . . The nearly 200 lushly reproduced black-and-white and color photographs prove . . . objectivity and a direct style should not be confused with lack of passion. The effort of photography, both physically and emotionally, is to compose poetry with images."--Roni Galgano, San Diego Union-Tribune

"Even in the presence of the deepest poverty, Evans' eye remained fixed on the kind of poetic perception that is the glory of his work."--Hilton Kramer, Art & Antiques

"A rock-solid work providing biographical, historical, and visual accounts of the artist's life and work . . . Careful reproduction of well-known black-and-white and little-known color photographs by Evans form the heart of this volume"--Library Journal

"This illuminating volume includes more than 175 of Evans' finest photographs. Essays by the authors draw on newly accessible diaries, papers, and negatives now at the Walker Evans Archive at the Metropolitan that provide us with a Walker Evans that no one knew."--Bonnie Weller, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"All photographs capture light; Evans managed to seal and store it so securely that, like a day remembered as endless, it may never run out. . . .The crystalline rightness of his composition makes you think . . . of a guy going out on a road, like a hunter or salesman, and gazing at places until they bequeath the beauty of their natural form, as if it were hidden already, and needed only patience to flush it out."--Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

"This is a book on Evan's photography, not on his life. . . [and it includes] a series of focused, well written essays, on his development as an artist."--Jean Dykstra, Art on Paper

"Evans has long been established as a master, a maker of individual images that are authoritative in both technique and theme. . . . [Walker Evans] is destined to become the standard reference for Evans's career."--Benjamin Lima, Art Journal

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691119656
Publisher:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Publication date:
04/05/2004
Pages:
332
Product dimensions:
9.98(w) x 11.38(h) x 0.94(d)

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