May 14 - August 2, 2003
The Auroral Light: Photographs by Women
from Grolier Club Member Collections
Curated by Anne Hoy & Kimball Higgs
The Morning is due to all --
to some -- the night --
to an imperial few -- the auroral light.
Works by over eighty women photographers are the subject of this exhibition, drawn from the collections of Grolier Club members. Exploring a little-known aspect of Grolier member collecting, the exhibition unites modernist and postmodern photographers from Berenice Abbott to Helen Levitt, from Nan Goldin to Cindy Sherman. This gathering of over 130 photographs and photographically-illustrated books serves as an evaluation of women's contributions to camera art and documentation, three decades after the first feminists brought female photographers to wide public attention.
Organized thematically, "The Auroral Light" shows how these generations of women photographers have tackled portraits and figure studies, the landscape, cityscape, and still life, and how they experiment with set-up subjects, photocollage, photograms, and the like. Well-known photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham, Lotte Jacobi, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe are represented by signature images as well as lesser-known prints. Less familiar names, including Eva Watson-Schutz, Carlotta Corpron, and Edith Worth, come from the ranks of photographers who worked in the first half of the 20th century. Younger photographers include Ellen Carey, Susan Derges, Sally Mann, and Catherine Opie, while Mari Mahr, DoDo Jin Ming, Barbara Pollack, and Liz Rideal are among the newcomers.
Portraits of photographers and writers are a strong suit of "The Auroral Light," reflecting the Grolier Club mission to preserve and promulgate knowledge of books and the book arts. Here are photographs of James Joyce by Giselle Freund, Janet Flanner by Berenice Abbott, Henry Miller by Mary Ellen Mark, Paul Strand by Lotte Jacobi, and Irving Penn by Lisa Fonssagrives, among other portraits. The earliest photograph in the exhibition is by the passionate Victorian, Julia Margaret Cameron, of her friend Alfred, Lord Tennyson as "The Dirty Monk."
"The Auroral Light" is curated by Anne Hoy, former curator at the International Center of Photography, and Kimball Higgs, Gagosian Gallery, and the show is sponsored by the Club's Committee on Prints, Drawings, & Photographs. The Grolier Club members who lent to this exhibition do not collect photographs by women exclusively: major contributors such as Nancy and Robert Grover of Hartford, CT, collect contemporary photographs that experiment with perception and expand the boundaries of the medium; Donald Oresman of New York City collects images of people reading; Neale Albert and George Meredith, of Manhattan and Upper Montclair, NJ, respectively, acquire photographs from photographers they have known. Among the motives for the exhibition's focus on women photographers was to call attention to women as collectors of books and book arts and to celebrate the contributions of women to the life of the Grolier Club.
An illustrated checklist accompanies the exhibition.