New York Photo Review
Volume 2 Issue 39 November 8 to 14, 2011

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Fields of Influence
Lisette Model
Self Reflections: The Expressionist Origins of Lisette Model
Ed Barnas
Venezuela, Portrait of a Woman by Lisette Model. Source: brucesilverstein.com
Lisette Model, "Venezuela, Portrait of a Woman" 1954

Lisette Model was well known, both as photographer and teacher. Her students included Larry Fink, Diane Arbus, Bruce Weber, among others and her influence on their work as been explored, most notably in the exhibit “Lisette Model and Her Successors” at Aperture a few years ago. The current show at Bruce Silverstein, however, addresses the other side of the coin – what were the influences that informed Model’s own vision early in her career – and it is well worth viewing by anyone interested in the ways early influences can appear in later works.

Raised in a well-to-do family in Vienna at the start of the last century, Lisette Model was exposed to then avant garde Expressionist movement with its subjective perspective and preference for emotional rather than physical reality. She studied music under Arnold Schönberg and moved to Paris in 1926 to study singing. For some reason she gave up music in 1933 to study painting under Andre Lhote (whose other students included Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Hoyningen-Huene) and also began to photograph, learning the craft from her sister Olga and from Rogi Andre (the first wife of André Kertész).

This exhibit offers three dozen of Model’s photographs (some previously unexhibited) and ten Expressionist artworks spread over three rooms. The first space contains a large number of images from the Reflections series of the 40’s and 50’s, a couple of the Running Legs, and a few of the Shadows (1940-41). Works by George Grosz (Passers-By, 1921), Lyonel Feininger (Parisian Houses, 1920) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Three Dancers, 1912) are hung with the photographs and one can see the intermix of influences, primarily in the Reflections series

Singer at Café Metropole by Lisette Model. Source: brucesilverstein.com
Lisette Model, "Singer at Café Metropole" 1946

The second space is devoted primarily to portraits with artwork from Otto Dix, Karl Hubbuch, Bruno Voight, and George Grosz. Here the juxtaposition of images is painfully direct: Dix’s stark portrait of Leonie is next to Model’s equally stark Venezuela, Portrait of a Woman. Hubbuch’s beach scene is flanked by an image from the Promenade des Anglais series, hung so that both seated men are facing into the artwork. A heavyset woman on the Lower East Side faces Otto’s corpulent Freida. Voigt’s Death Dance is next to somber faces at a war rally. A spectator at Belmont Park Racetrack is coupled with another image from the Promenade series to flank Grosz’s ironically titled print – each man of a similar heft and striking the same basic pose.

The performers and patrons of Sammy’s Bar, Nick’s Nightclub, and Café Metropole in the 1940’s fill the last space, with Jeanne Mammen’s The Fat Singer (1935) and Max Beckmann’s Café Music (1918) offered for comparison along with a recording of Arnold Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Opus 25, as an aural counterpoint. Supposedly one of her greatest influences, the music is described in the wall notes as evoking the “anguish of the modern era.” Played in conjunction with these nightlife photos, it adds a layer of desperation to the festivities depicted.

The study of artistic influences can go in many directions. Viewing the photographs and artwork in this exhibit brought to mind other images (I see a bit of Model’s Circus Man, Nice in Cartier-Bresson’s Picnic on the Banks of the Marne). It also raised questions of cross-pollination among contemporaries and I would welcome a future exhibit of Weegee’s work at Sammy’s and Nick’s combined with Model’s.

Lisette Model
Self Reflections: The Expressionist Origins of Lisette Model


Bruce Silverstein
535 W 24th St. Ground Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 627 3930
brucesilverstein.com

Thursday, September 22 to
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Hours: Tues-Sat, 10 to 6
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery