New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

1950 to 1970 - Pioneers of Color

Beyond Color: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970
Harry Callahan, “Chicago, Elanor in Max Weber’s Studio” c 1951

Given the prevalence of color photography in the fine art world today (and the size of the prints,) it’s easy to forget that color is a relative newcomer on the scene. The new show at Bruce Silverstein of 78 images is particularly refreshing and revealing since it brings back the era of Kodachome film and dye transfer prints along with a distinguished line-up of early color practitioners that includes Harry Callahan, Eliot Porter, Marie Cosindas, Arthur Siegel, Saul Leiter, Marvin E. Newman, Pete Turner, Ruth Orkin and Ernst Haas. In addition, Inge Morath’s color images, the first female member of Magnum, are being shown for the first time. Garry Winogrand, who never printed his color images, is represented by a slide presentation that has not been seen in New York in 40 years.

Although color imagery emerged after World War II and was embraced by the mass media and the public, the same could not be said about its acceptance in the art world.

The period being shown here, 1950-1970, is essentially reserved for those artist/ pioneers who chose to shoot with color film. Meyerowitz, Eggleston, Stephen Shore and others would come later but many of the artists in this show worked with little support and attention from the art world during this time––with the notable exception of the Museum of Modern Art’s involvement. MoMA exhibited color work by Haas in 1943 and Porter and Morath in the 1960s. Still, they must have felt very lonely amidst the sea of black and white.

 by unidentified photographer.
Saul Leiter, “Shopper”, 1953

“Beyond Color” is a walk through a rich period of photographic history; it offers the added benefit of revealing work that has rarely or never been seen before by artists who you may not have associated with color during this particular time. For example, Harry Callahan also took color photographs of his wife Eleanor; the image here is entitled “Eleanor in Max Weber’s studio,” 1951. There are other gems as well. Ruth Orkin, perhaps best known for her B & W photograph of “American Girl in Italy” also used color in her work for magazines. Her New York street photographs were rarely shown and have survived the test of time. Saul Leiter, another iconic figure, was shooting color as early as 1948. The eight images here, all from the 1950s, show Leiter’s painterly origins, and include several shot through New York store windows.

From the vibrant imagery of Pete Turner to the quiet landscapes of Eliot Porter, this is color photography in its infancy and its glory; it’s one of the must see shows of the fall season.

Beyond Color: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970

Bruce Silverstein
535 W 24th St. Ground Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 627 3930

Thursday, September 16 to
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Hours: Tues-Sat, 10 to 6