This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Olivier Renaud-Clement
"Nobody should touch a Polaroid [camera] until he's over sixty" ¹ -Walker Evans
Andrea Rosen Gallery is extremely pleased to present the first comprehensive exhibition of the last body of work by Walker Evans, his SX-70 color Polaroids. This body of work was presented for the first time at The Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this year as part of an exhibition organized by Jeff L. Rosenheim. This was, for the general public and most professionals, a revelation of works mostly unknown.
Between the fall of 1973 and late 1974, Walker Evans worked intensely with this camera, the film for which was given to him by the Polaroid company. The resulting body of work demonstrates a never-ending appetite for his lifelong obsessions and recurring subject matters. What is really compelling when looking at the Polaroids is that there are a few and very specific bodies of subject that emerge and continually reappear. Quite a number of images of people, primarily faces of, most often, young female students and, less frequently, older male colleagues are present. Evans uses the specific vehicle of the instant camera to expose the subtle changes in personality that is revealed from one shot to another. With the same intensity of detail and investigation there is also a large group of images devoted to signs as well as significant groups depicting architecture, arrows painted on asphalt and mannequins.
There is a widely accepted, although inaccurate, impression of Walker Evans as a purely historical black and white photographer. Indeed, although he reportedly did take the opportunity to insult color photography on occasion, he started taking color pictures as early as 1946 for Fortune Magazine and the majority of his work from that point on was color. Outside of this collaboration with Fortune, the Polaroids from 1973 and 1974 are the next largest body of work in color.
Over the last six months we have had the wonderful opportunity to intimately cull through this work, allowing us to become more and more deeply involved and impressed by it. Not only by how extraordinary many of the individual images are, but also by the fact that Walker Evans was living an active life into the mid seventies and that his engagement with art making evolved in a highly relevant and contemporary way. The Polaroids allow us to witness a sense of intimacy between the subject, whether person or inanimate object, and the photographer. These images show Walker Evans's immense depth of passion, youthfulness and enthusiasm about the world he actively chose to inhabit.
¹ Bill Ferris, Images of the South: Visits with Eudora Welty and Walker Evans (Memphis, Tennessee: Center for Southern Folklore, 1977), p. 37.