Old friends, Two Shows: Walker Evans and Peter Sekaer

Evans by Sekaer © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On view now, in NY and in CT, are two shows of work by two friends, Walker Evans and Peter Sekaer. Though the exhibitions each center on one or the other artist, there are images in both that were made the same day, in the same locations, when the pair travelled together on a photographic road trip in late 1935. Among the places they stopped was St. Michael's Cemetery in Bethlehem, Penna., where Evans made one of his most famous and powerful images: the picture of the cross overlooking workers' homes and, in the distance, the huge steel mill. (See: http://www.daylightmagazine.org/blog/2010/12/16/897 )

Sekaer's work is now on view at ICP in Midtown, along with the moving 9/11 Remembered show and the glam Vince Aletti-curated Harper's Bazaar exhibtion. Born in Denmark, Sekaer studied photography with Berenice Abbott. He was friends with Ben Shahn and also Evans, who also helped him to secure more contracts from 1936 to 1943 to work on assignment as a photographer for various government agencies. His untimely death in 1950 at the age of 49 put an end to an incredible body of work. This show is an incarnation fo the show on view one year ago at the High Museum in Atlanta, which I was lucky enough to also have seen, as it was more exhaustive in what it could present. Included were unseen pictures of black American life in the 30's, but also different views of scenes and spots that we know well through the images of Evans, a travel companion.

Evans's work is on view at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT. You may ask yourself why the Flo Gris, as the institutiona dn the town were home-base for the American impressionism movement, a far cry from the clear and concise images that Evans made. The show, basically a mini-retrosepctive, is mounted here because the town is where Evans lived during the last few years of his life, while commuting to Yale to teach. The show encompasses his whole career, and the pictures range from those made on trips for the FSA and on assignment for Fortune Magazine, to his subway series, to the detailed photographs of tools, to a grid of Polaroids of close-up portraits, to photos of the interior of his Modern home and of him on a nearby private beach he frequented, clad in a massive fur coat and carrying a large bag, presumably filled with driftwood, flotsam and jetsam. Most exciting about the show are two things: the very large mural prints made digitally in New Haven by John Hill, in which you can make out details you never before would have been able to see, and also the collection of ephemera on view. In vitrines are original copies of Fortune, so viewers can see how many famous images were originally seen, and enlargements of some of the pages are also installed on the walls. There are also some of the actual signs that Evans had students "liberate" for him, as well as replicated versions of signs that were not available for teh show. There is even an auto repair shop sign on loan from a private collection that he had cut in half, in order to hang each piece in diffferent locations in his home. One half, a blue car, is housed at the Met, and the other half, which reads "Car Shop," still hangs in what was Evans's garage to this day, but here reunited with it's other half in an inkjet print on display.

The ICP Show is on view through January 8, 2012, and the Evans show is on view through January 29, 2012. There will be an Evans Symposium on November 12th; tickets are $35.

http://www.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/signs-life-photographs-peter-sekaer

http://walkerevans.florencegriswoldmuseum.org/introduction/

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