Weston’s Modernism

Art of the Americas Building, Level 3
July 24, 2011–October 23, 2011

Edward Weston (1886–1958) is ranked as one of the pioneers of modern American photography. His work evolved in response to contemporary movements in the arts, especially those in Los Angeles and in Mexico. He was inspired by photographers Stieglitz and Imogen Cunningham, and by Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, Diego Rivera and the Mexican muralists, and later by practitioners of Dada and surrealism. This exhibition shows the great strength and variety of Weston’s modernist imagery, from his first experiments to his later iconic photographs.

Early on, from around 1918, Weston’s photography was concerned with abstraction and flatness, and he began to produce his first sharp-focus images, moving away from pictorialism, which, with its soft-focus and subject matter, photographically mimicked painting styles of the time.

By 1926, after several extended trips to Mexico, Weston returned to California and embarked on an extraordinary two decades of work that placed him at the center of American modernism. Through the late 1920s and early 1930s, he began to experiment with flat patterns and texture, first with trees, rocks, and kelp in and around the Carmel shoreline. His explorations in the studio culminated in his classic, high modernist images of sculptural shells, peppers, and nudes. Weston is often remembered for his early work, with its focus on the glories of the California landscape; however, his true visual legacy is his modern sensibility, evidenced in this exhibition.

Image: Edward Weston, Legs, 1934, gelatin silver print, 4 ½ x 3 5/8 in.,The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin.

Weston's Modernism

Nestled in an intimate room in the Art of the Americas Buildings is a small installation of twenty-five images by Edward Weston that explore tensions between subject/form and light/shadow. The organic spontaneity of the different connections and comparisons in the show encourage engagement beyond the four walls of the exhibition space.