September 28, 2006–January 21, 2007
Like other New York street photographers of the 1940s and 1950s, Saul Leiter was adept at translating the mood and atmosphere of urban life into photographic form. What makes him unusual is his exceptional talent for composing images in color. Grounded in the subtle hues and muted tones of daily life, Leiter's stunningly lyrical images recall the Abstract Expressionism of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Richard Pousette-Dart. By presenting familiar urban structures as yawning swaths of color and transforming pedestrian attire into patterned Pointillist compositions, Leiter's color images stake new aesthetic territory in the reality of the contemporary world. His sustained dedication to color photography in the 1950s and early 1960s occurred at a time when making photographic prints in color was expensive and not accessible to the average artist. As a result, most of his color work existed only in the form of 35-milimeter slides until about ten years ago. Originally, Leiter presented his works as slide shows in which the scale of the images approached that of contemporary painting. In order to demonstrate this aspect of his work, a room in the exhibition will be devoted to a digital "slide show" presentation of his images. In addition, the exhibition will present some 70 color prints, along with an introductory selection of Leiter's black-and-white street photographs and four of his watercolor/govache paintings. Organized by Lisa Hostetler, assistant curator of photographs at the Milwaukee Art Museum, this will be the first major museum exhibition of the artist's color photographs, which are widely admired in the field but not well known to the general public. A booklet with an essay and checklist will be produced.
Listen to the In Living Color: Photographs by Saul Leiter podcast, featuring music selected by the artist and an introduction by exhibition curator Lisa Hostetler.
Saul Leiter, Snow, 1960. Silver dye bleach print, 14 x 11 in. © Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Saul Leiter, Pizza, Paterson, 1952. Silver dye bleach print, 14 x 11 in. © Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Saul Leiter, Haircut, 1956. Silver dye bleach print, 14 x 11 in. © Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Saul Leiter, Harlem, 1960. Silver dye bleach print, 14 x 11 in. © Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York