New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

60 from the 60’s: Selections from the George Eastman House
Reviewer #1
Ben Fernandez, “DISSENTERS (at United Nations Plaza, New York City, April, 1967”

The gallery in the lobby of 1285 Sixth Ave (for a long time known as the USB gallery) has been host to numerous exhibitions since it’s opening in 1960. Celebrating its 50’s anniversary, it is showing a traveling exhibit organized by George Eastman House, “60 from the 60’s”. The gallery-lobby has always been a refreshing oasis from the bustle outside, and this show is well suited to the layout, as each artist has a bay of his or her own.

The show is about equally divided between very well known photographers and relatively less known ones, and so gives both the pleasure of seeing old favorites and of discovering some new ones. Three of the photographers seen here (Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, and Arnold Newman) came to artistic maturity in 50’s or earlier, although most of the pieces shown here retain their clear vision. On the other hand, younger photographers, such as Garry Winogrand and Mary Ellen Mark, were just starting their careers. Their gritty, less disciplined approach is probably more emblematic of the times. The only nod to the great political and social unrest of the period is in the work of Ben Fernandez, who is represented by his very close, low-angle views of demonstrators– and most notably of the National Guardsmen surrounding them

Four less well known artists, all of whom had teaching positions or worked in the Rochester - Buffalo upstate New York area in the Sixties, are what make this show a bit more than just a best-off compilation. All four worked within the same accumulative, un-fussy, mixed media, ‘Pictures Generation’ style. Robert Heinecken with his appropriated, multi-level collages, often centered on fashion models and pin-up girls, Roger Mertin with his straight-forward, but multi-layered photographs, and Betty Hahn with her alternative process images and printing techniques, were all defiantly not of the f64, decisive moment, or Zone System schools of photography.

The most interesting photographer, to this reviewer, was Hollis Frampton, better known as an experimental film-maker and a writer. The show presents images from his “Pictures of Words” series,a precursor to one of his better know films, Zorns Lemma. The central section is a repeated, alphabetized tour of the words found on the streets of New York (check it out on YouTube).

In short, if the crowds and pretentiousness of MOMA get you down, walk down the street to 1285, for a modest but engaging immersion in the photographs of fifty years ago. (And marvel how the “new” really isn’t so new after all.)

60 from the 60’s: Selections from the George Eastman House

1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery
1285 Sixth Ave.
Midtown         Map

Monday, September 6 to
Friday, February 18, 2011
Hours: Mon-Fri, 8 to 6