At the Worcester Art Museum thru Dec. 1.
ONE HOT DAY last summer I took an uptown bus to the Museum of Modern Art. Down in the theater in the cellar I cried it out with Greta Garbo in Queen Christiana. Upstairs I walked through the most beautiful exhibit of photographs I have ever seen and finally, I found myself by the pool in the museum garden. It was dark and warm and Buddy Guy was playing. Close and sad at first, then wild and glad at the end.
I can't offer you Garbo or Buddy Guy. You know where to find them anyhow. But the photography show, the largest American showing of Cartier-Bresson photographs in twenty years, is now at the Worcester Art Museum. You should go. It consists of 148 photographs, all but twenty-five taken since 1950. All of the pictures come from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and were chosen for the show by Cartier-Bresson and the Curator of Photography.
The show appears almost simulanteously with Cartier-Bresson's beautiful new book, The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson. But while the book is an expression of the photographer's personal and artistic development, the show, which overlaps the book in about sixty places, is geared more to the diversity of topics covered by him in the past decade.
This diversity is of styles as well as geography and individual subject matters. I was particularly struck by the photographs of Japan and the United States. The Japanese photographs of rivers and water were almost calligraphic in their approach, assimilating the idiom of Japanese expression through the medium of the camera. The photographs of the Nixon-Eisenhower campaign in Texas brought home the unbiased catholicism of Cartier-Bresson's intuition. He did not exploit or criticize, as a European or an artist, the stark tribal events of this country, but rather absorbed the faces, the landscapes, the posters.
PORTRAITS of Saul Steinberg, William Faulkner, Giacometti (running to breakfast in the rain) show another facet of his genius. He gathers up wonderful details of his subjects' surroundings to capture them and attach them to a real world, rather than idealize and abstract them. The Faulkner picture sticks in my mind in such a way that whenever I think of him, I return to his face and thin body and yet also to the small lean dog who stretches behind him.
At sixty-two Henri Cartier-Bresson seems to be as much on the move as he ever was. He supposedly does not develop or print his own pictures, entrusting this to a carefully supervised assistant, because he is too busy in the field. His photographs of Parisian students in the streets, taken less than two weeks before the exhibition opened in New York, show his total involvement with contemporary events. His pictures betray a thoroughly contemporary drive to discover what is true about the events, without irony or prejudice of the old or the establishment. Students, arm in arm, stream into his focus--proud stances and spaces of chest mixed with really frightened glances and hesitant gestures. These are the most important and eloquent pictures I have seen of Paris, capturing the motion and excitement as well as the ambiguity. Cartier-Bresson would be the one to take them.