US photographers have produced many shots that left indelible imprints on the global consciousness. Think of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother as a defining image of the Great Depression. An exhibition at the Albertina turns an eye on many of the giants plying their trade in the 20th century.
- Explores the post-1930s evolution of American iconography
- Features around 180 works from such greats as Arbus, Sherman and Friedlander
- Runs Aug 24 – Nov 28, 2021
- See also:
People and places
(Lee Friedlander; New York City, 1963; gelatin silver print; ALBERTINA, Wien; permanent loan from the Österreichische Ludwig-Stiftung für Kunst und Wissenschaft © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and Luhring Augustine, New York)
The Albertina museum is providing a smorgasbord of visual delights in 2021 for those interested in the photographic arts.
We had Faces earlier this year, which explored trends in German portrait photography between the World Wars. And the artist portrayals of Austrian Franz Hubmann. Over at the Albertina Modern, the startling works of Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki helped establish the growing reputation of this new museum.
After Germany, Austria and Japan, the summer and autumn sees part of the Albertina given over to US photographers, with a focus on that grand period of iconographic renewal from the 1930s and (particularly) after World War II.
This is when reality burst into the spotlight, elbowing its way past more idealistic approaches to images of America. The era of road trips and themed series that shone a more discerning and critical light on life and society. Where snapshots competed with staged photos that questioned perceptions and social directions.
That period gave birth to some of the iconic names of American photography.
Cindy Sherman, for example, whose works sell for seven figures. Vienna’s Kunstforum Wien dedicated an exhibition to her back in 2020.
Or Diane Arbus, who inspired generations of photographers to capture images of those on the margins of society.
Or Lee Friedlander, documenter of the everyday social landscape.
Or Robert Frank, author of perhaps the world’s most famous photography book.
Or Alec Soth, another conqueror of the Viennese museumscape with a 2020 solo exhibition at the Kunst Haus Wien.
All these and many more names feature in American Photography, which draws on the Albertina’s own extensive collections and the huge private collection of Trevor Traina (coincidentally, a former US ambassador to Austria). The exhibition includes around 180 images from 33 photographers.
The selection of photos does justice to the USA as a land of contrast and diversity (in the widest sense of the word).
While everyday scenes and people dominate, the photo that most caught my attention was the 1957 shot of Marilyn Monroe by Richard Avedon: the kind of photo that makes you want to read a biography of the subject just to gain some clarity on what she might have been thinking.
Dates and tickets
Enjoy the art of US photography from August 24th to November 28th, 2021. A normal museum entrance ticket gets you into any of the Albertina’s exhibitions.
You might also pop across town to the Kunst Haus Wien for an exhibition dedicated to another American photographic great: Susan Meiselas.
How to get to the exhibition
Check the main museum article for travel tips, but finding the Albertina is easy: it sits among the main tourist attractions in Vienna’s centre and opposite the official tourist information centre. The exhibition is on the lowest floor (turn left once past ticket control for the escalators).
Talking photography: the raised area in front of the main entrance to the Albertina makes an excellent spot for taking photos of the State Opera House, particularly at night.
Address: Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna