10
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 25th May 2009

Looks a very interesting exhibition – wish I could see the actual thing!

 

“This exhibition will focus on a collection of 9,000 picture postcards amassed and classified by the American photographer Walker Evans (1903-1975), now part of the Metropolitan’s Walker Evans Archive. The picture postcard represented a powerful strain of indigenous American realism that directly influenced Evans’s artistic development. The dynamic installation of hundreds of American postcards drawn from Evans’s collection will reveal the symbiotic relationship between Evans’s own art and his interest in the style of the postcard. This will also be demonstrated with a selection of about a dozen of his own photographs printed in 1936 on postcard format photographic paper.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Unknown Artist. 'Front Street, Looking North, Morgan City, LA' 1929

 

Unknown Artist
Front Street, Looking North, Morgan City, LA
1929

 

Walker Evans. 'Street Scene, Morgan City, Louisiana' 1935

 

Walker Evans
Street Scene, Morgan City, Louisiana
1935
Film negative

 

“Sold in five-and-dime stores in every small town in America, postcards satisfied the country’s need for human connection in the age of the railroad and Model T when, for the first time, many Americans regularly found themselves traveling far from home. At age twelve, Walker Evans began to collect and classify his cards. What appealed to the nascent photographer were the cards’ vernacular subjects, the simple, unvarnished, “artless” quality of the pictures, and the generic, uninflected, mostly frontal style that he later would borrow for his own work with the camera. Both the picture postcard and Evans’s photographs seem equally authorless – quiet documents that record the scene with an economy of means and with simple respect. Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard proposes that the picture postcard represented a powerful strain of indigenous American realism that directly influenced Evans’s artistic development.”

Text from the Steidl website

 

Unknown artist. 'Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, N. C.,' 1930s

 

Unknown artist
Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, N. C.
1930

 

 

“Walker Evans was the progenitor of the documentary style in American photography, and he argued that picture postcard captured a part of America that was not recorded in any other medium. In the early 20th century, picture postcards, sold in five-and-dime stores across America, depicted small towns and cities with realism and hometown pride – whether the subject was a local monument, a depot, or a coal mine.

Evans wrote of his collection: “The very essence of American daily city and town life got itself recorded quite inadvertently on the penny picture postcards of the early 20th century .… Those honest direct little pictures have a quality today that is more than mere social history .… The picture postcard is folk document.”

Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard is the first exhibition to focus primarily on works drawn from The Walker Evans Archive. The installation is designed to convey the incredible range of his collection and to reflect the eclectic and obsessional ways in which the artist organized his picture postcards. For example, Evans methodically classified his collection into dozens of subject categories, such as “American Architecture,” “Factories,” “Automobiles,” “Street Scenes,” “Summer Hotels,” “Lighthouses,” “Outdoor Pleasures,” “Madness,” and “Curiosities.”

Text from Ephemera: Exploring the World of Old Paper

 

Unknown artist. 'Tennessee Coal, Iron, & R. R. Co.'s Steel Mills, Ensley, Ala.,' 1920s

 

Unknown artist
Tennessee Coal, Iron, & R. R. Co.’s Steel Mills, Ensley, Ala.
1920s

 

Walker Evans. 'View of Easton, Pennsylvania' 1935

 

Walker Evans
View of Easton, Pennsylvania
1935
Postcard format gelatin silver print

 

“Later in life Evans had friends around the country while on photo trips keeping an eye for postcards that might interest. He had a particular love for ones produced by the Detroit Publishing Company which were considered the “Cadillac” of postcards. Lee Friedlander related the following from a recent interview: The Detroit Publishing Comapny had a formula. If a town had 2,000 people or so, it got a main street postcard; if it had 3,500, it got the main street and also a courthouse square. Walker liked the formula. He had everyone looking for this or that. He told me once in Old Lyme, “If you run across any ‘Detroits,’ get them for me.” I found sixty or seventy cards for him. He loved them.”

Text from the 5B4: Photography and Books blog

 

Unknown Artist. 'Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers' 1910s

 

Unknown Artist
Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers
1910s

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
T: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Monday: Closed (Except Holiday Mondays)
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 9.30 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm

Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard (Hardcover)
by Jeff Rossenheim and Walker Evans

Available on Amazon from 1st May, 2009

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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1 Response to “Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York”


  1. November 16, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Some of these old postcards definitely don’t depict shiny colorful happy pictures like the ones do today.


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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