Paris, day two: Walker Evans exhibit at the Pompidou

Today we visited Paris’ Pompidou Museum for their new exhibit of the great American photographer, Walker Evans. Awesome event, brilliant photography. My wife expressed how crazy it is to travel to France to better appreciate an artist so quintessentially American.


Walker Evans (1903-1975) is one of the most important American photographers of the 20th century . His photographs of America in crisis in the 1930s, his projects published in Fortune magazine in the 1940s and 1950s and his “documentary style” have influenced generations of photographers and artists. By his attention to the details of everyday life, to the urban banality and the people of little, it has largely contributed to define the visibility of American culture of the 20th century. Some of his photographs have become icons.

A retrospective of the work of Evans, the exhibition presented by the Center Pompidou proposes a thematic approach and unpublished through three hundred photographs of time. It highlights the obsession of the photographer for certain subjects such as roadside architecture, storefronts, signs, typographical signs or faces. It invites the public to better understand what is undoubtedly the heart of Walker Evans’ work: the passionate search for the fundamental characteristics of American vernacular culture. In an interview in 1971, the photographer explains this appeal in these terms: “You do not want your work to come from art; You want it to originate in life? It is in the street. I do not feel at ease in a museum anymore. I do not want to visit them. I do not want anyone to tell me anything. I do not want to see “accomplished” art. I am interested in what is called the vernacular. For example, the architecture accomplished, I mean , does not interest me, I prefer to seek the American vernacular. “

In the United States, the vernacular defines forms of popular expression used by ordinary people for utilitarian purposes: everything that is created outside art, outside the circuits of production and legitimation, everything that ends up Constitute a specifically American culture. These are all small details of the everyday environment revealing a form of “americanism”: the wooden barracks of the roadside, how the merchant disposes of the goods in his shop window, the silhouette of the Ford T, typography Pseudo-cursive of the Coca-Cola banners. It is a central notion to understand American culture. The vernacular was present in the literature as early as the 19th century, but it was only at the end of the 1920s that it was the subject of an initial analysis in the field of architecture.

After an introduction devoted to the modernist beginnings of Evans, the exhibition brings together, in a first part, the main subjects that Evans has never stopped tracking: the typography of a sign, a display, a shop front … Then, the journey reveals how Evans himself adopted the operating modes or the visual forms of vernacular photography by becoming, during a project, architectural, catalog, street photographer, while explicitly claiming an approach artist.
This exhibition is the first major retrospective devoted to the work of Walker Evans in a French museum. She retraces, from the first photographs of the late 1920s to the Polaroids of the 1970s, The entire career of the artist through an unprecedented collection of period photographs from the most important American public collections (Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Art Institute Of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, etc.) and about fifteen private collectors. Through a hundred documents and objects, it also places a great deal of importance on the whole of postcards, enamelled plates, cut-out images and ephemera graphics that Walker Evans has collected throughout his life. ) And about fifteen private collectors. Through a hundred documents and objects, it also places a great deal of importance on the whole of postcards, enamelled plates, cut-out images and ephemera graphics that Walker Evans has collected throughout his life. ) And about fifteen private collectors. Through a hundred documents and objects, it also places a great deal of importance on the whole of postcards, enamelled plates, cut-out images and ephemera graphics that Walker Evans has collected throughout his life.

IMG_2847

Not Walker Evans.

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