Museum Home Past Exhibitions Public Faces/Private Spaces: Recent Acquisitions

October 10, 2006–February 4, 2007 at the Getty Center

Tiny in Haloween Costume / Mark
Tiny in Halloween Costume Blowing Bubble, Seattle, Mary Ellen Mark, 1983

Mary Ellen Mark, Bill Owens, Anthony Hernandez, and Donald Blumberg are midcareer American photographers who share a commitment to observing the people and places that define community. Responding to the genres of portraiture, street photography, and social documentation, each artist works in a serial manner to capture moments that oscillate between the public and the private, between the newsworthy and the everyday.

This exhibition presents recently acquired works, all excerpted from series that the artists made from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.

Sunday Afternoon / Owens
Sunday Afternoon We Get It Together. I Cook the Steaks and My Wife Makes the Salad, Bill Owens, 1971

Bill Owens

With clearly conceived notions of Americans—at work and at play, indoors and out, in family and social groups—Bill Owens recorded the rituals of daily life in suburbia for more than a decade. His intention was neither to criticize nor to parody the conformity and materialism associated with the suburban lifestyle that was familiar to millions of Americans and to himself. Instead, Owens allowed the people he knew—his friends, relatives, and neighbors—to enact their lives in front of the camera. He often asked his subjects to record their comments on cards, which later provided captions for the book Suburbia.

3rd Street & Vermont / Hernandez
Public Transit Areas #12: Los Angeles, Anthony Hernandez, 1980

Anthony Hernandez

Anthony Hernandez took up photography in earnest after his return from service in the Vietnam War. He initially turned to the city for his subject matter: the streets, inhabitants, and debris of Los Angeles—where he grew up and has lived his entire life—became integral to his work.

The Public Transit Areas series depicts people at bus stops throughout the city. By employing a fairly formulaic composition, in which individuals are placed to emphasize the one-point perspective of the street as it recedes into the distance, Hernandez encourages us to take in even the seemingly inconsequential details of our surroundings.

Untitled / Blumberg
Untitled (Woman with Shopping Bag and Blurred Priest), Donald Blumberg, 1965–1967

Donald Blumberg

Donald Blumberg began photographing in the streets of New York City in the early 1960s. His work explores the relationship of figure to background and the tension between two-dimensional representation and three-dimensional reality.

For his series In Front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Blumberg tilted the camera and excluded the outline of the portal as worshippers spilled out of the dark cathedral into the bright sunlight of Fifth Avenue. The figures seem to float against a dense black background, unmoored from the specificities of time and place. He also moved the camera during prolonged exposures and combined two to three adjacent 35mm negatives to create a single print of panoramic proportions. Thus, the images virtually capture time while creating complex narratives that suggest the private and communal aspects of faith.

Lillie with Her Rag Doll / Mark
Lillie with Her Rag Doll, Seattle, Mary Ellen Mark, 1983

Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark has earned steady recognition for her images published in magazines and books since the mid-1960s. One of America's best-known and most prolific photojournalists, she readily credits her identity as a woman as instrumental in enabling her to gain her subjects' trust.

In 1983 Life magazine sent Mark to Seattle to document the phenomenon of street children. Sleeping in abandoned buildings and scavenging for food in dumpsters, they survived by begging, stealing, and hustling; the girls often turned to prostitution. In this image from the resulting series entitled Streetwise, it is difficult to identify Lillie, seen dressed in baggy clothes and dragging on a cigarette butt, as a 13-year-old girl. Mark's inclusion of details like the rag doll are reminders of childhood innocence that magnify the sense of lost youth.

The exhibition is located at the Getty Center, Museum, West Pavilion.