The legend of Vivian Maier lives and looms even larger this fall!
Earlier this month the Chicago History Museum opened an excellent new exhibition of the late, previously unknown Vivian Maier's work titled "Vivian Maier's Chicago." Unlike an earlier show at the Chicago Cultural Center this is a wonderfully simple yet sophisticated exhibit that manages to capture a previously unshown dimension to her work in a relatively small space.
This exhibition of previously unseen Maier work is very thoughtfully and cleverly presented. The center of the smallish gallery space is occupied by large board-mounted prints suspended by cables. These enormous prints, actually of top quality (although I would have preferred them untoned), form small spaces that visitors can explore freely.
The perimeter walls of the gallery are banded by a continuous strip of enlarged contact sheet-style prints of some of Maier's Rolleiflex 120-size film rolls. We see all 12 6x6 frames of each selected roll, the progressive sequence of how she worked a subject, the stinkers with the gems. This is perhaps the richest possible presentation of Maier’s work for others to study, especially other photographers. I think I could have spent hours in there!
For me, this presentation affirmed that Vivian Maier was every bit as talented, and then some, as the best of the more renowned street photographers of the last century. I don't care if she was an odd duck. (As if Winogrand and Frank weren't? Yah.) And I care much less that the art museum /art criticism world has its collective head so deeply up its collective arse as they so clearly do on Maier's work. She was a great unknown talent and deserves to be shown and shown as intelligently as the Chicago History Museum is now doing.
The exhibit will be up until "Summer 2013." If you have any interest in Vivian Maier’s work, or even in good street photography, find a way to go see this show. Really, just go.
Can't get to Chicago?
Also noteworthy is a new book of Maier's work scheduled to be published by CityFiles Press on October 16th of this year. I have not been able to browse the book yet but from its appearance (in a vitrine in the exhibition) it looks to be a much larger collection (288 pages) of her work than the earlier 136-page book. Hopefully of more mature and refined print quality, too.
UPDATE from Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, authors of Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows and curators of "Vivian Maier's Chicago" at the Chicago History Museum: "Thank you all for your enthusiastic comments about the Chicago History Museum show and the book Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows. We can assure you that the scans supplied for the show were straight grayscale images without any toning. One image, added at the last moment, now appears to contain a slight pinkish tone. We hope to replace that soon. We do not consider Vivian Maier's work to be nostalgic or sentimental. We are glad that so many people are enjoying the show. No plans for a traveling exhibit right now—so come to Chicago in the next nine months or buy the book."
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.