Widely acknowledged as one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) captured moments of everyday American life in the postwar era, producing an expansive picture of a nation rich with possibility yet threatening to spin out of control. He did much of his best-known work in New York in the 1960s, becoming a major voice of that tumultuous decade. But he also roamed widely around the United States, from California and Texas to Miami and Chicago. He photographed the rich and powerful and everyday strangers on the street; antiwar protesters and politicians; airports and zoos. In many of these pictures, humor and visual energy are the flip sides of an anxious instability. As photographer and guest curator Leo Rubinfien says, "The hope and buoyancy of middle-class life in postwar America is half of the emotional heart of Winogrand's work. The other half is a sense of undoing."
When he died suddenly at age 56, Winogrand left behind thousands of rolls of exposed but undeveloped film and unedited contact sheets — some 250,000 frames in total. Nearly 100 of these pictures have been printed for the first time for this long-awaited retrospective of his work. By presenting such archival discoveries alongside celebrated pictures, Garry Winogrand reframes a career that was, like the artist's America, both epic and unresolved. This exhibition has been jointly organized by SFMOMA and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Jeu de Paume in Paris, and Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid.
This retrospective, organized by SFMOMA under the direction of photographer and writer Leo Rubinfien, is the first major touring exhibition and catalogue in 25 years dedicated to the work of Garry Winogrand (1928-1984). Despite being widely recognized as one of the preeminent American photographers of the 20th century, Winogrand has to date been inadequately published and incompletely explored by critics and art historians. Postponing the editing of his prodigious body of work and then coming abruptly to the end of his life, he completed only five modest books, which contain just a fraction of his total work and merely suggest his great importance to the history of photography. The curatorial research undertaken for this project has made possible the first exhibition and catalogue that reveal to the public the full breadth of Winogrand's oeuvre — a jubilant, epic portrait of America that is Whitmanesque in its ambition to encompass the whole of the nation's life. One of the principal artists in any medium of the eruptive 1960s, Winogrand combines a sense of the hope and buoyancy of American life after World War II with a powerful anxiety, presenting America shining with possibility while also threatening to spin out of control.