Comments/Context: I doubt that there are any words worth adding to the celebration of August Sander's landmark photography project Citizens of the Twentieth Century. His ambitious and exhaustive portrait of the German people has influenced generations of photographers from across the globe, as evidenced by recent paired showings here in New York with both Seydou Keïta (here) and Boris Mikhailov (here). Edwynn Houk as recently taken on representation of the August Sander family collection, and this show is a foundation sampler of images from this iconic project.
The prints in this exhibit are not vintage rarities, but posthumous prints made by Gerd Sander relatively recently. So instead of the warm patina of age, they have a sharp crispness of silver tonality, making them seem surprisingly modern. The pastry cook, the bricklayer, the boxers, the three young farmers, the pairs of children, the soldier, they are all brisk and refreshed rather than tired. Several of the images have been enlarged to roughly twice the original size (I had never seen these before), but they too are clean and lively.
While this show doesn't give us any particularly new or original insights on August Sander, seeing a strong grouping of his portraits like this one never fails to impress. It's proof that greatness doesn't age, and that the true masters of the medium can be revisited time and again without becoming stale.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Edwynn Houk Gallery
745 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10151