Each week, Artful spotlights an art experience or destination that speaks to us right now.
The photographs of Diane Arbus, who died in 1971 after a brief but extraordinary career that redefined portraiture and gave new visibility to socially marginalized subjects, continue to inspire artists working today. The contemporary photographer Deana Lawson, in a recent digital event for David Zwirner, spoke about the influence of Arbus on her own empathetic and collaborative portraits of Black men and women. And in a current exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, which co-represents the Arbus estate with Zwirner, the acclaimed photographer, video, and performance artist Carrie Mae Weems has selected the Arbus images that are most meaningful to her.
Weems, who will also have a survey exhibition at Fraenkel in September, is a consummate storyteller whose best-known works explore Black history and identity through complex visual and textual narratives. At Fraenkel, her choices include several images in which Arbus depicts members of underrepresented communities, such as Puerto Rican Family on the Beach, Coney Island, from 1963, or Black Boy, Washington Square Park, N.Y.C., from 1965, with an unmistakable sensitivity to individual expression.
She also highlights some of Arbus’s lesser-known works, such as the disarmingly intimate Woman Making a Kissy Face, Sammy’s Bowery Follies, N.Y.C., from 1958, and the portrait of a posing muscleman Kenneth Hall, the new Mr. New York City, at a physique contest, N.Y.C., from 1959—two very different pictures, yet both revealing an eye for performative gestures.
See images from the exhibition, which runs through August 13 and was a highlight of Artful's July 2021 trip to San Francisco, in the slideshow below.