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Walker Evans and Company: Works from The Museum of Modern Art
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WALKER EVANS and COMPANY: Works from The Museum of Modern Art
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Poets use the same language as journalists and lawyers and curators. Just so, the mundane realism of photography—the medium of mug shots and real-estate ads—can be the stuff of visual poetry. The American photographer Walker Evans was among the first to recognize this potential.

Evans (1903-1975) did most of his best work in the 1930s, and his pictures have been celebrated as documents of the Great Depression. But his concerns ranged far beyond the troubles of the 1930s, and his inventive pursuit of descriptive photography laid the foundations of a robust creative tradition. His restless probing of American identity radically broadened the engagement of advanced photography—and of modern art—with the world outside the studio.

In the exhibition, Evans's photographs are arranged in eight groups, each concentrating on a single dimension of his art. Each group is presented together with works by other artists that contributed to, drew upon, or otherwise resonate with Evans's work. In a sense, then, Evans is treated not as one artist but as eight, and a single, complex tradition is traced eight times, each time along a different path.

Some art seeks to create beauty or to express deep emotion. Evans's work might be described as a form of inspired curiosity, aimed at precisely framed questions rather than definitive answers. He showed that symbol resides in fact, that significance lies in the ordinary, and that articulate description can be a vehicle of wit, irony, humor, and intelligence. And he proved that if an artist looks outward rather than inward, beauty and emotion will take care of themselves.

Peter Galassi
Chief Curator, Department of Photography
The Museum of Modern Art, New York