New York

“Love Is Blind”

Castelli Graphics

Love, 20th-century style, was surveyed in this large, splashy, something-for-eveyone group photography show. Arranged salonlike in vertical rows, the display was a provocative collagist juxtaposition of every imaginable love attitude and love coupling. Pieces numbered about 90 in all, and included works by photographers, portrait-machine shots, movie stills, and even a magazine cover. Both color and black-and-white prints were on view.

Approaches toward love varied, from the documentary—E.J. Bellocq’s Storyville portraits—through the slice-of-life intimacy of Diane Arbus and the bravura theatricality of Cecil Beaton (whose costume portrait of Baba and Princess Galitzine, ca. 1925, is a knockout), to the conceptually loaded, photography/art/media-conscious fare of younger photographers, including Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Jimmy de Sana, and Laurie Simmons.

In some cases, the selection was overly forced and cute. Margaret Bourke-White’s portrait of the Henlein family in Czechoslovakia, originally done for an essay on the Nazis in Life, seemed out of place. And Eve Arnold’s portrait of Mrs. Richard Nixon in 1960, showing Pat near a portrait of Dick, merely suggested how much the meaning of the individual photograph ultimately rests on the specific context in which it is seen.

Of course, like many theme shows, the exhibition ran the risk of being repetitious. After all, how many variations on boy/girl, boy/boy, girl/girl relationships can there be? But every time viewers became tired of being voyeurs in the relationships of other people, they could turn to the public and collective faces of love represented by film stills. Movies represented included The Thin Man (1934), Mildred Pierce (1945), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), From Russia With Love (1964), Ordinary People (1979), and Superman II (1981). And any exhibition that also included Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) had to be saying “relax; photography, and love for that matter, should be fun.”

Ronny H. Cohen

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