PRINT April 1966


Ambiguity and the Absurd

Gordon Bennett has so often stumbled over the title of his show that one fears that he has fallen victim to the catchy alliteration without really understanding what the words mean. Elliot Erwitt’s widely-reproduced photograph––from his series, “Improbable Photographs,” shown last summer at the Museum of Modern Art––of a boy and girl deep in conversation between two rows of gaping-mouthed mummies in the catacombs of Guanajuato is absurd; the conversation is ridiculously unrelated to the locale. Bennett, on the other hand, has shown only the mummies––hardly ambiguous, far from absurd. Some of the photographs are mawkish sight gags––an old man looking into the window of a tombstone maker. Several need tighter seeing––a man bewildered by a maze of arrows needs to be truly trapped by allowing him less space to escape. When Bennett’s photographs are good, however, they are very good: a Rolls Royce hood with a motley crowd behind it; Negro soldiers holding a flag in front of a train; a sailor leaning against a wall in a row of bayonets.

Margery Mann