Nags Head, 1975
At the Mall, New Jersey, 1980
Happy Anniversary Sweetie Face!
A monograph of this body of work has been published by Steidl (here). (Installation shots at right.)
There are many color exercises on these walls, both tighter still lifes and broader scenes that use color as a defining element. Chunky red high heels compete with blue woven polyester pants, a green dress balances a yellow cab, a striped bathing suit sets off deep tan lines, and a flash of blond hair piled up in a beehive has a honey glow. More complex color compositions find a boy with green shoes posed outside a suburban home of the same color (set off by bright pink flowers), a woman riding in a sky blue convertible with matching blue sunglasses, and a neon juke box flanked by lingering men and Playboy centerfolds. Sternfeld was clearly examining the play of different colors, and considering how those weights impacted the underlying structure of his pictures.
These early images grew more striking as I gave them more looking time. At first they seemed appropriately uneven, with a good number of misses. But even these weaker outcomes show Sternfeld pushing and trying, and the best of the lot absolutely foreshadow the Sternfeld pictures we all know. I came away extremely impressed with the rigor of Sternfeld's trial and error in his early years, his inquiries and questions given visual form, his preliminary steps thoughtful and appropriately risky.
Collector's POV: The prints in the show are priced at $7500 each. Sternfeld's work is widely available in the secondary markets, particularly his most famous images, which have been printed in editions of 50 or even 100. Recent prices have ranged between $2000 and $100000, with his most famous pictures generally in a zone between $10000 and $30000.
- Reviews/Features: PhotoBooth (here), Capital New York (here), Guardian (here), Time LightBox (here), Wayne Ford (here), TimeOut New York (here)
- Exhibition: FOAM, 2012 (here)