Sunday, April 1, 2012

Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes”

Museum of Modern Art, NYC, February 6–April 9, 2012

Atget created a monumental body of work in Paris and its environs during the first part of the 20th century. So great, in fact, that to call it “Documents pour artistes” (on his business sign) seems to trivialize the work. I related to him from the moment I first saw a couple of his prints in the Boston, MFA. To me, with some relative sophistication in composition, he simply aimed his camera at the things he found most interesting. The prints look ancient and modern at the same time. They also at times appear naive - as when the corners are darkened by the edge of the lenses circle of vision, or the highlights block to a pure white flair. Parks, rural landscape, architectural details, prostitutes, everyday workers, courtyards full of clutter, whatever he looked at he did with curiosity and determination to show us his world.

Bourg-la-Reine, Ferme Camille Desmoulins, 1901

Cour, 7 rue de Valence, 1922