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Esther Bubley, Greyhound Terminal, NYC, 1947, gelatin silver print, 9 x 13". From the series “Bus Story,” 1947.

New York

“1947, Simone de Beauvoir in America”

Sous Les Etoiles Gallery
100 Crosby Street #603
December 13–March 2

The opening line of America Day by Day (1948), Simone de Beauvoir’s diary of her US travels in 1947, conveys the French writer’s intense sense of anticipation at the beginning of her first visit to the New World: “Something is about to happen.” When Corinne Tapia, owner and director of Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, encountered the journal a number of years ago, she was struck by its visual quality, an aspect that she wanted to explore further. Now, over a decade later, Tapia has curated a homage to the book. The exhibition features more than sixty black-and-white photographs—most of which date to the year of de Beauvoir’s tour—by an array of photographers.

The show begins with a large print, ca. 1940, of the New York airport now known as La Guardia, de Beauvoir’s port of arrival, and is organized according to where she spent the most time during her roughly four-month trip—prominence here is given to New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where de Beauvoir presented one of a countrywide series of lectures.

Reflecting the author’s thirst to know, the range of works expresses the multiplicity of 1940s America via race, age, and social class; via the longed-for, the run-down, and the privileged. Photographs of New York by the likes of Ted Croner, Gjon Mili, and Louis Faurer depict the city of one’s dreams; the blurring of light and movement in Croner’s Taxi, New York at Night, 1947–48, for instance, captures the thrill and disorientation of the nighttime metropolis. Alongside these depictions are images from Esther Bubley’s 1947 series “Bus Story,” where passengers in a shot such as Coast to Coast, SONJ, 1947, convey the paradoxical experience of travel as one of expectation and ennui. The series also marks the American road trip’s significance in the country’s collective psyche. And for one particular French woman, who undertook such a journey seventy-two years ago.