Friday, October 11, 2019

Roy DeCarava at David Zwirner

Roy DeCarava
Wall Street, morning, 1960
"Light Break" is a simple and beautiful show of 119 eleven-by-fourteen-inch silver gelatin prints from the estate of photographer Roy DeCarava (1919–2009). Portraits of jazz musicians, scenes from sidewalks and parks, natural landscapes, and abstract shadows sit harmoniously side-by-side in DeCarava’s soft and emotional language of shifting grays. DeCarava disdained the trends of high-contrast flash photography, opting instead to shoot with whatever light he happened upon. The work’s charmingly sentimentality is made potent by its formal ingenuity, and the range of work on view provides an opportunity to gain insight into the subtleties of DeCarava’s technique. Wall Street, Morning (1960), showing a strikingly quiet city street, is even now a fresh take on the old trope of light at the end of a dark path. Two People Sitting, Bangkok (1978) depicts two figures seen from behind on separate sidewalk benches. Its formal composition establishes a rhythm of duality that sits in an enigmatic tension with the isolated contemplation of the figures. These themes of hope, loneliness, and other old cliches are made meaningful and beautiful again. This show is a revitalizing experience, and reminder of the emotive potential of the modestly sized photograph.

1 comment:

  1. I think that your review accurately conveyed the sentiment and meaning within this exhibition. You were successful in describing the quiet and emotive force that these photographs have. I particularly responded to how you described his work as a “thoughtful yet effortless visual language of shifting grays”. In addition to, or instead of, the three short descriptions of photographs, I would have liked a more in-depth commentary on at least one work from the exhibition. You discuss the idea of both the formal and conceptual subtleties that are found in his work, and I would be interested to see how you expand on those comments.