Photography for me has always been a sort of double-sided mirror.
One side reflecting my subject, the other reflecting myself.
(interviewed by Alexey Brodovitch for Portfolio, 1950)
Richard Avedon: Photographer of Influence, on view at Nassau County Museum of Art from May 21, 2011 through September 4, 2011, showcases more than 50 photographs by the legendary artist. The exhibition celebrates Avedon’s storied career in which he embraced the worlds of both magazine and museum, pioneering a vision of photography as a two-sided mirror that reflects both the subject and the photographer. Richard Avedon: Photographer of Influence was organized by the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona with the cooperation of The Richard Avedon Foundation, New York. The installation of the exhibition at Nassau County Museum of Art will run alongside a presentation of fashion and photography in film.
Richard Avedon (1923-2004) was one of the great image-makers of the 20th century. He revolutionized fashion photography through his imaginative portrayals of modern women wearing extraordinary clothes in irresistible settings. Along with stylistic innovation, Avedon introduced a new emotional complexity to fashion photography by using the model’s expressive gestures to evoke a greater narrative. His iconic images in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue showed the public a new American woman — one with wit, individuality and glamour.
Avedon created and defined the role of the high-profile portrait and fashion photographer. The 1957 film Funny Face — inspired by Richard Avedon’s role in the postwar reconstruction of French glamour — cast Fred Astaire as fashion photographer “Dick Avery,” and Audrey Hepburn as a naïve young American transformed into an exquisite woman of haute couture. Avedon acted as visual consultant to the film, which features cameos by his favored models of the era: Dovima, Suzy Parker, and Sunny Harnett. The museum is showing Funny Face on Saturday, June 4. This outdoor screening at sundown is an event of the Gold Coast Film Festival.
Throughout his career, Avedon focused on portraiture in concert with, and in contrast to, his fashion work. Through his focus on expression and gesture, and obliteration of extraneous information, he produced resonant portraits that remain powerful depictions of humanity and history. His subjects included artists, politicians, writers, intellectuals and other influential figures of the day. The exhibition at Nassau County Museum of Art incorporates several of his most noted portraits of stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Ezra Pound, Bob Dylan, and Humphrey Bogart. Writing of portraiture for In the American West, one of his most highly regarded bodies of work, Avedon explained: “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive (just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road) in Roslyn Harbor. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Docent-led tours of the exhibition are offered at 2 p.m. each day; meet in the lobby, no reservations needed. Admission to the galleries in the Arnold & Joan Saltzman Fine Art Building is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12) and includes same day admission to the Art Space for Children (Tuesday-Sunday, 12-4:30 pm). Members are admitted free. Admission to the Art Space for Children only is $5 for adults and $4 for students, children (aged 4 to 12) and seniors (aged 62 and above); children under 4 and members are free. There is a $2 parking fee on weekends (free for members). The Museum Gift Shop is open during museum hours.
Nassau County Museum of Art and its activities are made possible through the support of Nassau County, under County Executive Edward P. Mangano and the Nassau County Legislature, the museum’s board of trustees, memberships, corporate memberships, event and exhibition sponsors, admissions, special events, private and corporate donations, and government and foundation grants. The museum is chartered and accredited by New York State as a not-for-profit private educational institution that is governed by a privately elected board of trustees.
Call (516) 484-9337 for current exhibitions, events, hours and directions or log onto nassaumuseum.org.