VIVIAN MAIER „In her own hands”
24 April 2019 - 16 June 2019
Vivian Maier was an American street photographer оf Austro-Hungarian origin on the side of her father, Charles von Maier, and French on the side of her mother, Maria Jaussaud, Vivian Maier (1926-2009) worked as a children’s nanny in New York and then Chicago from the early 1950s to the 1990s.
Her precarious social position led her to lead a silent and solitary life, without sound or fury. Hers is a life that cannot be told; a transparent life, as if her body without a shadow had the mere appearance of life; life with a certain resignation, the "resignation that alleviates all ills without cure"; surviving without really existing.
By happy coincidence, another side of this "Woman without a Shadow"(2) and her contradictions, which no one had ever glimpsed, was discovered in Chicago, in 2007. This other facet of her, as if freed of its shackles, produced a considerable body of work.
This imposing, dense, luminous and brilliant oeuvre is made up of more than 120,000 photographic images, Super 8 and 16mm films, various recordings, a rattlebag of photographs, and reems of undeveloped film, like captivating finds. Haunted by this passion, which became certainty, she now ranks among the most emblematic of street photographers, with a place in the history of photography alongside Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt and Garry Winogrand.
We see the same themes returning again and again throughout her work, like weighting that balances out the overall architecture of her work; a vocabulary, a syntax and a language laid down from the outset and her earliest images. This was her language and she used it to tell the story of her time.
She photographed street scenes, her preferred stage, and the working-class districts where she came into contact with life; portrait after portrait of strangers and people with whom she identified and gave a split second of eternity as her gaze briefly met theirs; a gesture, an expression, a situation; the grace of small things within reach. She also photographed the world of children, a universe that had been her own for so long. A world of freedom where time no longer exists; forms, rhythms, materials, like objects found on her long walks; in black and white, and then in colour from the 1960s onwards, adding a variation the musicality of colours - and playing on its attributes. She tried her hand at making films on Super 8 and 16mm cameras, no longer wishing to hurry time forward but to ground it to a halt, frozen in the instant of what she saw; because rather than scenes, Vivian Maier filmed the movement of her eye in space, scouting the photographic image. Vivian Maier "seized upon the life that was everywhere she looked. She grasped it in its smallest details; she observed it and followed it; she awaited it at the crossroads where it lingered; she overtook it as it ran, and wherever she may have been, she found it in all places equally great, equally powerful and overwhelming.”
But central to these themes is an important issue that would seem to carry the work’s entire structure: her search for identity through self-portraits. Many such portraits exist in Vivian Maier's work, in multiple variations and types, to become a language within language - the mise en abyme of the double. The recurrent mode of her self-portraits, now a form of signature, is the cast shadow, which typically cleaves to the body, a negative body double, "carved in reality" and able to make the absent present. For although it testifies to the existence of a referent, it simultaneously obliterates its presence. Through duality, Vivian Maier plays with this self on the verge of disappearance and the advent of its double, acknowledging the self-portrait as "a presence in the third person (that) accurately reveals the simultaneity of this presence and absence".
Vivian Maier's work, discovered in extremis, destined as it probably was to be "disfigured" or even to disappear, unfolds before our eyes, and this "simple nanny", nameless and faceless, reaches the point at which she posthumously becomes Vivian Maier. Vivian Maier, photographer. Her work, lifelike and vibrant, resonates in some way with everyone who has ever looked at one of her images. Time stops instantly. Vivian Maier stands before us and forever etches herself in eternity. Anne Morin, diChorma Photography
Masters of Photography – Vivian Maier “in her own hands” is organized by MUSIZ Foundation in partnership with Sofia Municipality, US Embassy in Sofia, VIVACOM and Samsung. The exhibition is in collaboration with diChroma photography, Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, NY.
The Other Eye Roject
16 April 2019 - 16 June 2019
Portrait of a Friend is the fifth exhibition within the Other Eye Project launched by the Sofia City Art Gallery in 2010. Under the project, non-art historian outsiders are invited by the gallery as guest curators to conceive directions and ideas for an exhibition based on artworks belonging to the gallery’s permanent collection. The upcoming exhibition is curated by Iglika Trifonova, filmmaker and screenwriter, whose work includes 10 documentaries, most notably Homicide Stories. A Letter to America (2000) marked her debut as a feature film director (a co-production with the Netherlands, Germany, and Hungary). Her films were presented at dozens of festivals having earned numerous national and international awards. Iglika Trifonova draws our attention to closeness focusing on personalities, or individual images. The exhibition is the outcome of interesting conversations, a careful selection, and a new take on a much commented upon theme, namely the portrait. The exhibition features more than 100 works that belong to various genres such as painting, sculpture, and photography, and span the close of the nineteenth century through the first decade of the twenty-first century. The exhibition presents artworks by seminal Bulgarian artists such as Zlatyo Boyadzhiev, Ivan Markvichka, Vladimir Dimitrov the Master, Genko Genkov, Ivan Nenov, Lika Yanko, Ivan Lazarov, Svetlin Rusev, Pavel Koychev, Atanas Patsev, Vaska Emanuilova. Iglika Trifonova’s curatorial approach is interesting in that the exhibition features works that leave the museum’s storage rooms for the first time, allow viewers to see the artists who created them in a completely different light, and reveal numerous points of intersection of images, styles, and periods. As Iglika Trifonova notes in the exhibition catalogue, ‘I picked out the portraits based on their effect, and the power of their presence. I have spoken to cinematographers I have worked with, as well as to actors and viewers about this presence so many times. There is something about it that does not lend itself to categorization, something so enigmatic and so attractive. The words most beautifully suited to this presence would be Shakespeare’s ‘such stuff as dreams are made on’... There are human faces that light is fond of, that leave an impression you cannot get away from for a long time... Some of the portraits are of notable Bulgarians all of us are familiar with, others are of anonymous people who lived in the past or belong to this day and age. Working on a portrait involves inspiration and skill, as well as responsibility to the person being portrayed.’
Curator: Iglika Trifonova