New York Photo Review
Volume 5 Issue 6 February 11 to 17, 2014

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

In The Thick of Things
Danny Lyon
Murals and Montages
Ed Barnas

Photo by Danny Lyon . Source: houkgallery.com Danny Lyon, "Used Book and Magazine Stand, Taiyuan, Shanxi" 2005

Danny Lyon was quoted in a recent interview saying, “You know I started as a journalist but I ended up in the art world.” The exhibit at Edwynn Houk runs the gamut of this work.

The main space in the gallery is given over to nine individual images. Most are 39x28 gelatin silver prints, not strictly murals but quite big by traditional 35mm film standards. While many photos are familiar, what struck me was the care taken in sequencing the images into a cohesive sequence. Moving counter-clockwise around the room, I was presented with a relatively recent image of a used book and magazine stand in China – on one cover a man in military attire points his pistol over my left shoulder –and then my gaze moves to an overhead image of two dominos players from Lyon’s Texas prison project. Visually, this could be a stop. But I am in motion in the 60s now. On to the next image of a couple on a motorcycle: she is looking back at the domino players while he watches the road ahead.

Photo by Danny Lyon . Source: houkgallery.com Danny Lyon, "Cal, Elkhorn, Wisconsin" 1968

Again moving on through riders on Route 12, to an image of Leslie by a car in Knoxville. The car is parked; seat covers hide the worn front bench but not the tattered fabric of the door. Seen through the driver’s side window, Leslie is looking to my left, a slight smile on her lips. This brings me round to Cal, his face reflected in the rear view mirror of his bike, bikers and bikes gathered before him. His gaze takes me to the road to Yazoo City before coming to a stop at the square-cropped view of Manhattan from 100 Gold St (from The Destruction of Lower Manhattan). While one could go clockwise around the room, the visual flow and interconnectedness created by the gaze of the subjects would be lost.

Photo by Danny Lyon . Source: houkgallery.com Danny Lyon, "Chicago" 1965

The four montages are another matter. All are multiples, chromogenic or pigment prints of photomontages ranging from 30x40 to 37x40. Chicago 1965 is the most traditional in layout – a vertical image of a man on a motorcycle is framed by a mix of fourteen small square group and individual portraits. It hangs at the entrance to the gallery and sets the tone for the number of biker images among the “murals.” The other three are hung is a small side room off the main gallery. Two of these, Nancy 1981 and Rachel in Texas 1968, appear to be deeply personal compilations and were included in his memoir Knave of Hearts (1999). Within the context of that book, perhaps I would have been able to better appreciate these two works. However, standing alone without any context or elaboration, I see an arrangement of snapshots of strangers and find it hard to have either an intellectual or emotional response to them (even though I could identify Wavy Gravy and Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus in one of them). At the other end of the spectrum, the last montage, of frogs and fish at a catch and release camp in Maine (2012), is straightforward and direct, an accessible holiday memento.

Photo by Danny Lyon . Source: houkgallery.com Danny Lyon, "The Dominoes Players, Wall Unit, TDC" 1967

Embedding himself in the thick of things, Lyon did not shy away from making a statement, producing bodies of work about the civil rights movement, the Texas prison system, and an outlaw motorcycle gang, ultimately seeing them through to book form. This show is a good introduction to the range and quality of that work.

Danny Lyon
Murals and Montages


Edwynn Houk
745 Fifth Ave. 4th Fl
Midtown         Map

212 750 7070
houkgallery.com

Thursday, January 9 to
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11 to 6
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