I/Eye: On Photography

Levitt and Rubinfien at the Cantor Art Museum

Posted in Other Photographers by Sheila Newbery on March 18, 2011
Tourists at the Ropeway Station, Mount Aso, Japan (1980) Leo Rubinfien

Tourists at the Ropeway Station, Mount Aso, Japan (1980) Leo Rubinfien

Two concurrent shows at the Cantor Art Museum (on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, CA) catch my eye:

In a New York Minute: Photographs by Helen Levitt and Paths through the Global City: Photographs by Leo Rubinfien. Both run until May 1, 2011.

I just finished reading Rubinfien’s 2005 critical essay on Diane Arbus (published in Art in America) — it’s a tour-de-force. His critical (and literary) gifts are clearly immense. I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with his photographs. As for Levitt, she is an abiding favorite: her work is plainspoken, miraculous. I saw some of her prints at the New York Public Library last year — when it was all but impossible to get in to see the Cartier-Bresson show at MOMA. It was fascinating to look at these pictures in the huge, empty galleries of the library: there it was — the raucous street life of kids. The fact that this (collective) life seemed so entombed is no reflection on Levitt nor for that matter on photography; Levitt’s work brings home the rather abrupt extinction of forms of social life that were part of New York, part of every city: kids playing on the street. Who sees it anymore?

Untitled (New York, 1936/1948) Helen Levitt

Untitled (New York, 1936/1948) Helen Levitt

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