Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

[Votive Candles, New York City]

Artist:
Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut)
Date:
1929–30
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions:
Image: 21.9 x 17.2 cm (8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.168
Rights and Reproduction:
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Not on view
Walker Evans dropped out of college in 1923 and moved to New York with the ambition of becoming a writer. Three years later he was in Paris auditing classes in modern art and literature at the Sorbonne, concentrating on the work of Flaubert and Baudelaire. He returned to New York in 1927, and, suffering from writer's block, began to make photographs. "I was a passionate photographer, and for a while somewhat guiltily. I thought it was a substitute for something else--well for writing for one thing."
Evans's earliest photographs are direct observations of street life--snapshots of electric signs, street peddlers, and Coney Island bathers--and abstract, geometric compositions of construction sites, sewer gratings, and the shadows cast by elevated train platforms. His method of documenting the city combined the concerns of the historian and anthropologist with the talents of a graphic artist. Creating an exhaustive visual catalogue of significant, if ordinary, facts, he forged a new idiom from the American vernacular. Concise in form and poetic in a prosaic way, this idiom of the neglected and the commonplace would change the direction of American photography.
Evans's interest in street signs, both commercial and handcrafted, shows the influence of Eugène Atget, specifically his photographs of Parisian shopwindows that had been admired by the Surrealists. This photograph of a crudely constructed sidewalk advertisement for religious articles was probably made in an Italian neighborhood on the lower East Side of Manhattan. In the printing stage, Evans cropped the negative at both the bottom and top to eliminate the heads of pedestrians and to hang the votive candles and offerings from the top of the picture, much as his contemporary Joseph Cornell might have placed them in a box. In a brilliant assessment of the scene, Evans superimposed graphic signs onto textual signs, a conflation that represents one of his first attempts to merge pictures with words.
Inscription: Signed and inscribed on mount, verso BR: "Walker Evans, 1929"
[Graphics International]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, November 30, 1977

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.

Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.

Carrousel du Louvre, Paris. "Constructed Views: Photography and Architecture," November 19, 1998–November 23, 1998.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Walker Evans," February 1, 2000–May 14, 2000.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "Walker Evans," June 2, 2000–September 12, 2000.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Walker Evans," December 17, 2000–March 4, 2001.

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. "Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photography: Manuel Alvarez-Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans," September 7, 2004–December 22, 2004.

Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne. "Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photography: Manuel Alvarez-Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans," February 10, 2005–April 10, 2005.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940," June 3, 2008–September 1, 2008.

Sophie Levy, Lille Métropole Musée d'Art Moderne d'Art Contemporain et d'Art Brut. "The Magical City," September 29, 2012–January 13, 2013.

Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 178.

Hambourg, Maria Morris, Doug Eklund, Mia Fineman, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. Walker Evans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. no. 18.

Rosenheim, Jeff L. Documentary & Anti-Graphic: Photographs by Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans & Alvarez Bravo. Göttingen: Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, 2004. p. 169.

La Ville Magique. Lille, France: Lille Métropole Musée d'Art Moderne d'Art Contemporain et d'Art Brut, 2012. no. 189, p. 203.



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