Milwaukee, WI, June 20, 2006— In Living Color: Photographs by Saul Leiter, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum September 28, 2006-January 7, 2007, is a visceral blend of innovative street photography of 1950s New York and pioneering color compositions. Grounded in the subtle hues and muted tones of daily life, seventy of Leiter’s stunningly lyrical color photographs-along with a handful of black-and-white photographs and four paintings-evoke the rhythm of urban visual poetry and recall the Abstract Expressionism of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Richard Pousette-Dart.
This is the first solo museum exhibition of Saul Leiter’s work in the United States. As the exhibition’s curator explains, “Leiter’s painterly glimpses of city life reveal a unique, witty creative vision that has been overlooked for far too long. Although widely admired by the field, Leiter is not yet known to the general public. With this exhibition we hope to change this situation as we expose visitors to Leiter’s ingenious photographic eye.”
In Living Color opens on September 28 at 5:30 p.m. with the artist presenting a slide show of his photographs. Always an innovative artist, Leiter originally presented his work as slide shows at museums, galleries, and in his own home. Because making color prints was expensive and inaccessible to the average artist in the 1950s, most of his color work existed in the form of 35-millimeter slides until the 1990s. The show will include both prints from his slides, as well as a special room in the exhibition devoted to a digital “slide show” of his color photographs.
By projecting his photographs as slides, Leiter’s images approached the scale of contemporary Color Field painting, and his sensibility is consistent with that of his painter colleagues. In fact, it was Leiter’s friendship with painter Richard Pousette-Dart that proved to be a significant trigger for his recognition of the creative potential of photography. Part of the aesthetic revolution that included Abstract Expressionism, Leiter composed photographs that present familiar urban structures as yawning swaths of color and transform pedestrian attire into patterned Pointillist images.
Saul Leiter moved to New York from Pittsburgh in 1946 as a 23-year-old aspiring painter but quickly began concentrating on his photography, inventing his own form of street photography. As Roberta Smith of The New York Times recalled, “…Mr. Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. …his subject is the urban visual experience-not the people on the street, but what they see.”
In Living Color: Photographs by Saul Leiter is organized by Lisa Hostetler, assistant curator of photographs at the Milwaukee Art Museum. A booklet with an essay and checklist will be available at the exhibition.
**Interviews with the curator and color images are available upon request.
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