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Edward Weston: Life Work
Modernist landscapes, bold portraits, and abstracted studies of shells and vegetables draw the viewer to a new understanding of photography in the exhibition Edward Weston: Life Work, on view May 11 through July 3, 2004, at the Greenville County Museum of Art.
Edward Weston (1886-1958) was born and raised in suburban Chicago, where he embraced photography at the age of sixteen when his father gave him a box camera to use on vacation. Early in his career, he gained attention as a pictorialist, practicing a painterly style of photography adopted in the late nineteenth century as the camera was beginning to win acceptance as an instrument for art. The style was largely achieved in the studio and the darkroom, where prints were manipulated to achieve impressionistic effects. (right: Edward Weston, Jean Charlot, 1933, private collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg)
Weston received some attention as a pictorialist. His work was published in Camera and Darkroom in 1906, the same year he moved to California and began earning a living by going door-to-door selling families on portraits he would shoot with a Polaroid. In 1909, Weston married and took a job as a studio printer. His photographic production matured into portraits and figure studies that appeared in exhibitions across North America.
But Weston wasn't settled, in his life or his profession. After a cross-country journey that included visits to such iconic photographers as Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, he embarked on a sojourn in Mexico, where he freed himself from the conventions of both photography and society.
It was during his Mexican adventures that Weston began to systematically pare from his photographs any remnants of pictorialism, embracing a modernist approach that imbued portraits, landscapes, nudes, and still lifes with unadorned bluntness and revealed the abstract possibilities of such varied subjects as desert sand, cabbage, and sensuous models.
Weston was part of the generation that brought photography from its documentary roots to occupy a place in contemporary art. He inspired early in his career by Stieglitz and especially affected by his later friendship with Ansel Adams, whose landscapes are often compared to Weston's because of their simplicity and directness. But Weston's impact doesn't derive from ways in which his work resembled that of others: his was a unique voice in modernist photography -- and a vision expressed through a sharply focused style. (right: Edward Weston, Pepper No. 30, 1930, private collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg)
Edward Weston: Life Work offers a rich survey of the photographer's career; it will be augmented with a series of programs planned by the Museum's Center for Museum Education.
All of these programs are free and open to the public.
Edward weston: Life Work is organized and circulated by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles.
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