Press Release - The first solo exhibition in 30 years to explore the legacy of Sid Grossman (1913 – 1955) will be on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from January 12 – February 11, 2017. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a new monograph, The Life and Work of Sid Grossman, published by Steidl/Howard Greenberg Library, with an essay by the curator and photo historian Keith F. Davis. An opening exhibition will be held on Thursday, January 12, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Coney Island, 1947 © Sid Grossman
Coney Island, 1947 © Sid Grossman
In a short career, ended by his untimely death at age 42, New York native Sid Grossman left an indelible mark as an artist and teacher on the photography of his era and beyond. In 1936, Grossman and his friend Sol Libsohn co-founded the Photo League, the left-leaning, socially conscious photographers’ cooperative and school. Photographing at a very close distance and using blur and off-kilter compositions, Grossman’s work of the late 1940s anticipates the work of many better known street photographers of the 1950s and 1960s.
“Grossman’s vision of creative photography changed the lives of many around him and resulted in a body of work of major historical importance,” Davis writes in the book. Among the many photographers who were taught or influenced directly by Grossman are Sy Kattelson, Leon Levinstein, and Lisette Model. More broadly, traits of Grossman’s work and philosophy can be seen in the work of Ted Croner, Roy DeCarava, Louis Faurer, Robert Frank, William Klein, and Saul Leiter as well as Garry Winogrand and a younger generation of 1960s artists. The exhibition surveys 35 photographs by Grossman, from his own neighborhood of Chelsea, to Little Italy and Coney Island, as well as in Central America during World War II, while serving as a photographer in the U.S. Army.
Union Square, NYC, 1938-39 © Sid Grossman
Some of Grossman’s best known work was made in Coney Island during the summers of 1947 and 1948. His groups of sunbathers gathering together and performing for the camera are visceral and dynamic. As Davis notes, “They are remarkable pictures—at once richly humane and bursting with graphic energy. The subject was perfect for Grossman: Coney Island was a landscape of human flesh, an endless index of physical gesture, contact, and vulnerability.”
Made during the same 1947-48 period, his powerful image of a slightly blurred boy with a mask and a toy gun playing next to a crumbling brick wall has a similar energy and physicality, yet alludes to man’s darker nature.
Aguadulce, Panama,1945 © Sid Grossman
Grossman never again photographed on the streets of New York. He spent time in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he continued to make pictures, and later made a group of images of New York City Ballet dancers. His public exhibitions in museums and galleries ended mostly in 1948. He died of a heart attack in December of 1955. In modern American photography, no greater career has been cut off so prematurely. Work by Sid Grossman can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
The exhibition will include a small selection of work by some of Sid Grossman’s students including Arthur Leipzig, Rebecca Lepkoff, Leon Levinstein, and Ruth Orkin.
A companion exhibition with work by Sy Kattelson, a student and close friend of Sid Grossman, will be on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery Two, next to the main gallery, also from January 12 – February 11, 2017.
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