Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS | 1001 Bissonnet Street
TX-77005 Houston

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press release

Although known primarily as the influential and articulate director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, John Szarkowski was a practicing photographer with an impressive record of exhibitions and publications before joining the staff at MoMA in 1962. Since his retirement in 1991, he has returned to work as a photographer, reviving and extending themes and subjects that first drew his work to acclaim. This exhibition of John Szarkowski´s work will feature 75 photographs drawn from various stages of the artist career.

Szarkowski began making pictures in his spare, eloquent style in the Midwest after the Second World War, photographing rural and urban landscapes and architecture. In 1947, a friend brought his attention to Louis Sullivan´s recently republished book, Kindergarten Chats. Inspired by Sullivan´s work, Szarkowski left his job as photographer at the Walker Art Center to take a position at the Albright Art School in Buffalo. In 1956, Szarkowski published The Idea of Louis Sullivan, a book comprised of his own photographs alongside text excerpted from Sullivan´s writing and from that of Sullivan´s contemporaries. Within the tradition of architectural photography, Szarkowski´s photographs were considered fresh and innovative, some of them suggestive of the street photography he would later champion at the Modern. Today, The Idea of Louis Sullivan continues to be treasured by many in the architecture community.

In 1958, Szarkowski published his second book, The Face of Minnesota, commissioned by the state to honor its centennial. A native of Minnesota, Szarkowski presented the subject matter, Midwestern rural landscape and culture, in his characteristically forthright way. After his retirement, Szarkowski produced a third book, Mr. Bristol´s Barn, which features photographs of the barn and surrounding apple trees, accompanied by diary entries written by a 19th-century farmer. Szarkowski´s gracefully understated vision of American rural landscape is evident in his most recent work as well. Since the publication of Mr. Bristol´s Barn, Szarkowski has continued to photograph apple trees and meadows in rural New York as well as a variety of American landscapes in such diverse places as Big Bend Texas, the Sonoran desert, central Nebraska, and the North Dakota plains.

John Szarkowski : Photographs
Kurator: Sandra Phillips
Organisation: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

18.01.09 - 05.04.09 Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop
01.06.06 - 17.09.06 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
01.02.06 - 15.05.06 Museum of Modern Art, New York
29.09.05 - 01.01.06 Milwaukee Art Museum
05.02.05 - 15.05.05 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art