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Three to see: New York

This week's selection focuses on photography

by Gabriella Angeleti, Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  21 April 2017
Three to see: New York
Henri-Cartier Bresson's photograph of Gandhi's funeral with crowds gathered between Birla House and the cremation ground, throwing flowers, Delhi, India (1948). (©Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos)
The Museum of the City of New York has revived a 1946 exhibition of photographs by Todd Web that show the city “not as a glittering megalopolis, but as a community”, as the curator Beaumont Newhall wrote in a press release over 70 years ago. A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-60 (until 24 September) includes over 100 pictures by the Detroit-born artist who, after serving as a photographer for the US Navy in the South Pacific during the Second World War, moseyed to the Big Apple in 1945 and rubbed elbows with artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Walker Evans and Berenice Abbott. More than half of the photographs in the original show have been reproduced, while around 20 of the original prints are on view. Visitors can spot landmarks such as the Fulton Fish Market, which was known as “the New York stock exchange of seafood”, and the 163-year-old McSorley’s beer tavern—the oldest drinking den in the city. It remained in business during prohibition by brewing its own ale (and by counting politicians and police officials as regular customers).

Cindy Sherman’s “self-portraits” in a variety of guises are as beguiling today as they were in 1981, when she burst onto the scene with her Centerfold series. Mnuchin Gallery presents 25 photographs from four decades in a solo exhibition, Cindy Sherman: Once Upon a Time, 1981-2011 (until 10 June). The close-cropped shots of (clothed) characters in the Centerfold series mimic the portrayal of (undressed) pin-ups in nudie magazines—a topic that remains relevant to current conversations on gender. Sherman’s 2008 Society Portraits take on problems of ageing and class through caricatures of older wealthy women, from a heavily-rouged bourgeois Parisian—who comes across as both dowdy and classy in her fur coat and silk scarf—to women sporting glamourous getups and putative plastic surgery. Art history buffs will enjoy Sherman’s interpretations of historical depictions of women, as with a picture of a round, Renaissance-style, breast-baring Madonna.

The exhibition Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame at the Rubin Museum of Art (until 4 September) is a chance to see the late photographer’s work through his own eyes. Cartier-Bresson chose the 69 images in the show as highlights from his trips to India, which are presented in the show alongside personal objects including his camera and letters. Cartier-Bresson first visited the country in 1947, the year India and Pakistan were partitioned into separate countries and gained their independence from British colonial rule. Some images depict important historical moments, like throngs of mourners at Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral in 1948, while others show everyday scenes around the country: an astrologer’s shop, a young woman eyeing the cameraman and even a fellow photographer in Delhi’s Old City, resting in front of a trompe l’oeil backdrop.

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