A New Exhibition Of Richard Avedon’s Work Documents A Changing America
The Bronx, New York, sometime in the late 1930s, and a young Richard Avedon befriends a young James Baldwin. They are both students at DeWitt Clinton High School and, despite their adolescence, find themselves with similar preoccupations – namely, a concern for the world around them, and the issues of race, morality and war that would define their later work.
That embryonic friendship would bring the pair together almost thirty years later, when, in 1963, whilst shooting Baldwin for a magazine, Avedon suggested they document life in a fraught and changing America through a book. And so Nothing Personal was born, published a year later in 1964. “This book,” Baldwin said at the time, “examines some national and contemporary phenomena in an attempt to discover why we live the way we do. We are afflicted by an ignorance of our natures vaster and more dangerous than our ignorance of life on Mars.”
Avedon travelled extensively across America in that year shooting, along the way, some of his most important portraiture of civil rights icons, staunch segregationists and everything in between – whilst Baldwin wrote the essay that would accompany the images, and, via regular liaison with one another, they fleshed out an ethnographic vision of American identity.Now, over fifty years later, Avedon’s seminal works return with a potent resonance. Opening on the 17th November at Pace Gallery in New York, Richard Avedon: Nothing Personal will be the first comprehensive presentation of this period in Avedon’s career and, as well as featuring the majority of works from the original publication, will also include extensive archive material.
“Both Avedon and Baldwin cared deeply about what was (or was not) going on in American in the early 1960s.” says the gallery’s founder, Peter MacGill. “It was an explosive time, not unlike the one we live in today. The events enveloping our country provoked Avedon’s careful reflection and examination of the place and its people. There is a lot to learn from looking at this prophetic work and considering the very profound statement it makes.”
Richard Avedon: Nothing Personal is on at Pace Gallery on 537 West 24th Street, New York from November 17th to January 13th 2018
Images, from top:
Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, March 1963
William Casby, born in slavery, March 1963
Marilyn Monroe, actress, May 1957
Santa Monica Beach, September 1963
George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, November 1963
Patients in a mental institution, February 1963
Photographs by Richard Avedon
© Richard Avedon Foundation