God Bless the Child
November 25th - December 31st, 2016
Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Ray K. Metzker
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Luis González Palma
W. Eugene Smith
Carrie Mae Weems
This being the year of the birth of our beautiful granddaughter, Olivia Esther Russek, we are presenting an exhibition of works that celebrate the child. As Eugene Ionesco so beautifully states,
Childhood is the world of miracle or of magic: it is as if creation rose luminously out of the night, all new and fresh and astonishing. Childhood is over the moment things are no longer astonishing. When the world gives you a feeling of “déjà vu,” when you are used to existence, you become an adult.
Eugene Ionesco, Present Past / Past Present
Our hope is that the photographs in the exhibition “capture the world of miracle or of magic:… – all new and fresh and astonishing.” Photography, since its earliest history, is able to capture the innocence and wonder of childhood, as well as the hardships that some children endure. Although the photographs included in this exhibition, created by many of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century, depict children in myriad interpretations, they remain the primary subject of these works.
The work that inspired the title for this exhibit, by Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953), reminds us of the beauty of the child as well as the history of racial injustices, both historical and contemporary. Carrie Mae Weems, a recipient of the 2013 MacArthur Fellowship Award, explores the borders of race and class as it exists in American culture.
In a New York Times review from January 23, 2014, written by Holland Cotter, this photograph: God Bless the Child, and the series it is a part of is described as follows:
“The fullest development of this investigation of racism and its consequences comes in the extraordinary and now classic pictorial essay called “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried,” which makes as powerful an impression today as it did when it was new in 1995.
… all of the images are lifted from found sources, the main one being an archive of 1850 daguerreotype images of African-born black slaves in South Carolina. The portraits were commissioned by the Harvard scientist Louis Agassiz to prove his theory that blacks constituted a separate and inferior race, and the men and woman presented, stripped to waist or naked, were intended to be evidential specimens, nothing more.
Ms. Weems adds the more. She has tinted all the pictures blood red and printed words over the images, some descriptive (“A Negroid Type”), others in the form of a direct address (“You became a scientific profile”), still others passionately tender (“You became a whisper, a symbol of a mighty voyage & by the sweat of your brow you labored for self, family & other”). The work is both an indictment of photography as enslavement, and a homage to long-dead sitters, transplanted Africans, who, under unknowable duress, gave their bodies and faces to the artist, to us, and to history.”
Roman Vishniac’s (1897 – 1990) photograph, The Only Flowers of Her Youth, circa 1935 – 1938, is both poignant and historic. Of the over 16,000 photographs he managed to take between 1934 and 1938 in the Warsaw Ghetto, secretly and under difficult circumstances, Vishniac was only able to rescue 2000. Some of the negatives were sewn into his clothing when he came back to the United States. Most were left with his father in a village in France during the duration of the war. Edward Steichen said about his photographs, “Vishniac came back from his trips to Eastern Europe in the 1930’s with a collection of photographs that has become an important historical document, for it gives a last minute look at the human beings he photographed just before the fury of Nazi brutality exterminated them.”…
In Vishniac’s ground breaking publication, A Vanished World, he wrote,
“Since the basement had no heat, Sara had to stay in bed all winter. Her father painted the flowers for her, the only flowers of her childhood. Many people have told me they were especially moved by this image. Sara was ten and the darling of her family. When I returned to the site of her home after the war, the home was no more, and there was no Sara.”
Wynn Bullock (1902 – 1975) is recognized for creating imagery filled with symbolism and beauty. His images of children have combinations of the natural world, oftentimes also addressing surrealist concerns. The above image, Child on Forest Road, 1958, while visually beautiful and intriguing plays with scale as a metaphor for the child entering the larger world filled with mystery and uncertainty.
The images for this exhibition have been selected by us for their subject matter and beauty, and also for the mystery that each photographer has been able to imbue in their works. We look forward to sharing these photographs with you.