Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

Dispatch from New York: Henri Cartier-Bresson at MoMA

April 7, 2010 |  5:10 pm
Henri-Cartier-Bresson-Greenfield-Indiana.-1960 It looks like the Museum of Modern Art in New York should have two very different blockbusters on view starting this week. Already packing in crowds is MoMA’s extensive show of Yugoslavian performance artist  Marina Abramović, offering not just the chance for museum-goers to interact with the artist in performance—and crowds are legion to do so—but also a great many live nudes, filmed nudes and photographed nudes doing or not doing all sorts of things.

But as Tuesday’s press preview made  very clear, few nudes at MoMA can rival the ones photographed by the legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Opening to the public on Sunday, “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century” is the artist’s first major U.S. retrospective in more than 30 years. Included are 300 photographs, with 220 of them loaned by the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris, which was established in 2002, two years before the photographer died at 95.

HenriOrganized by longtime Cartier-Bresson scholar Peter Galassi, chief curator of MoMA’s photography department, the images are primarily from the 1930s through the 1960s, and while several of his classic images are on view, more than 20% have not been shown before.  Cartier-Bresson spent 50 years of his life traversing the world with his camera, and few places he visited seem left out of this show. Determined to “trap” life, he captured images of children in India, prostitutes in Mexico, a rodeo in Los Angeles, an Easter bonnet in Harlem, the 1968 Paris student demonstrations, and even Club Med in Corsica.

There’s the chance to see how prints made at different times can alter the images, plus portraits of everyone from authors Capote, Camus and Pound to artists Matisse, Bonnard and Giacometti. Also on view are both the framed images and the original issues of Life or Paris Match in which appeared such things as his extraordinary 1949 photo of a crowd rushing a bank in Shanghai.   

From MoMA, the exhibition travels to the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

-- Barbara Isenberg

Top: "Greenfield, Indiana," 1960, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Gelatin silver print, 10 7/16x15 3/8 inches (26.5x39.1 cm)

Bottom: "Juvisy, France." 1938 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Gelatin silver print, printed 1947, 9 1/8 x13 11/16 inches (23.3x34.8 cm)

Credit: The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer. © 2010 Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson