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Side by Side: Marvin Lazarus and the Neuberger
January 18 - June 13, 2004
In its exhibition Side by Side: Marvin Lazarus and the Neuberger, the Neuberger Museum of Art presents seldom shown art in an innovative manner. "Many Neuberger Museum treasures are not on permanent display," says Museum Director Lucinda H. Gedeon, Ph.D. "Side By Side was developed as part of the Neuberger Museum search for inventive ways to present to our community rarely seen selections from our permanent collection." In mounting the exhibition, curator Dede Young selected paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings by celebrated artists from the Neuberger's permanent collection and paired them with black and white portrait photographs of these artists that were taken by photographer Marvin P. Lazarus (1918-1982). (right: Marvin Lazarus, Portrait of Alexander Archipenko, ca. 1960, gelatin-silver print, collection Roberta F. Lazarus)
Marvin Lazarus was a lawyer and the Assistant-Attorney General of New York State. In 1963, he left his law practice to become a professional photographer. His passion was to capture artists of the time. For more than ten years, Lazarus photographed famous 20th century artists in their homes and studios, often with lots of praise but seldom with much income. Along the way, he befriended many of his subjects. Lazarus photographed more than 200 American and European artists, representing a who's who of modern art. "Lazarus portraits have been used for decades as signature images in artist's books, exhibition catalogues and in magazines," says Ms. Young.
The exhibition includes photographs of and works by artists Alexander Archipenko, Milton Avery, James Brooks, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko, George Segal, Charles Sheeler, Frank Stella, Mark Tobey, to cite just a few.
Most of Lazarus's portraits are simple and straightforward; some illustrate the artists in their studios and provide fascinating glimpses into their personalities and psyches. These intimate views lend a more insightful understanding of the creator behind the work. In a few of his portraits, Lazarus embodied the artist and his or her work. Charles Sheeler (represented in the exhibition by The Web, an oil on canvas) is known for the precision and meticulousness of his work. In his portrait of Sheeler, Lazarus captures the contemplative artist deep in thought. Lazarus photographed Marisol, an artist who reacted to the solemnity of Abstract Expressionism by adding a sense of wit and satire to her work, by playfully placing her head on top of the wooden leg of one of her sculptures. Alberto Giacometti's Head of Diego features a thin, elongated head. Lazarus's portrait of Giacometti is similarly slender and stretched out on a pedestal. (left: Roy Lichtenstein, The Melody Haunts My Reverie, 1965, lithograph on paper, Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Photo: Jim Frank)
The techniques employed by Lazarus frequently provide a view of the artists not ordinarily seen and contrasts with important aspects of their work. The grace and style of American artist Alexander Archipenko's untitled marble torso contrasts starkly with Lazarus's Archipenko portrait. In the photograph, the large, brusque-looking artist is seen standing in the middle of his studio wearing a dirty apron and wiping his hands on a towel. He looks more like a butcher than an artist and the elegance of his sculpture is in sharp, unexpected contrast to the portraiture. A George Segal work juxtaposed with his portrait provides another interesting comparison. Segal's signature sculpture style -- models wrapped in plaster, clothing and all -- is apparent in Appalachian Farm Couple 1936. This work portrays a grave-looking rural couple leaving a farm building. The work is somber, the people are tired and downhearted. However, the Lazarus portrait of Segal catches the artist with an impish smile. The viewer doesn't expect that the playful-looking Segal would create such a bleak work. (right: Marvin Lazarus, Portrait of Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, ca. 1960, gelatin-silver print, collection Roberta F. Lazarus)
Side by Side: Marvin Lazarus and the Neuberger has been made possible by the Westchester Arts Council with funding from Westchester County Government; by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; by a generous donation from Irene Senter; and by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art.
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