Remnants: Louise Nevelson & Aaron Siskind
19 September – 2 November ’13

Bruce Silverstein
535 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Aaron Siskind, 'Chicago 16.' 1957. Printed c. 1957. © Aaron Siskind Foundation, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY.

Aaron Siskind, ‘Chicago 16.’ 1957. Printed c. 1957.
© Aaron Siskind Foundation, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York.

Aaron Siskind’s photographs from the post-Photo League years feel at first crowded with big, familiar names: Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman. But Siskind, who understood that paint is paint and the camera is different, made pictures that remain wholly his own. Never mind the pervasive sense of Abstract Expressionist gesture in Siskind’s photographs. It’s his feel for the haptic quality of the photographic print that makes him more an innovator and less a practitioner. Ditto his break with social realism, which dominated photography at the time.

Louise Nevelson, who also broke with the pack (but in Nevelson’s case, the break was in extremis), made sculpture and assemblages that aspired to the sublime, and she made them from precisely the stuff that Siskind liked to photograph: the discarded, the decayed and the forgotten–the unpretty stuff found in the real. Nevelson was so resolutely out on her own (“idiosyncratic” is how her friend, Edward Albee, put it) that grouping her in with contemporaries has proved, more often than not, iffy.


Thirty-two works by Nevelson and Siskind, most of them from early in the artists’ careers, are now on view at Bruce Silverstein’s, in Chelsea, in a museum-scale show that’s part essay, part refresher course on the visual possibilities and pleasures of pure form. The conversation between these artists runs surprisingly deep, touching on the nearly forgotten essentials–especially in photography–of surface, materiality, index and space.

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