Photographs & works on paper
Gallery FIFTY ONE
Fifty One Fine Art Photography is proud to present a new and our third solo show of Saul Leiter (b.1923) with unpublished photographs and for the first time in Belgium a selection of his works on paper. The influence of his paintings on his photographs is made apparent when the two are presented side by side. His gouaches, rarely exhibited, mostly explore an abstract language made of large color areas in unsaturated tonalities. To enhance the link between his paintings and photographs we published only figurative gouaches with pastel-evaporating colors. Similar compositions can be found in his early color photographic practice as well, although they are slightly altered due to the medium’s nature.
Although Edward Steichen exhibited some of Saul Leiter’s color photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953, for forty years afterwards they remained virtually unknown to the art world. Leiter moved to New York in 1946 intending to be a painter and through his friendship with the abstract expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart he quickly recognized the creative potential of photography. Though he continued to paint, exhibiting alongside Philip Guston and Willem de Kooning, Leiter’s camera became — like an extension of his arm and mind — an ever-present interpreter of life in the metropolis.
The semi-mythical notion of the ‘New York street photographer’ was born at the same time, in the late-1940s. But Leiter’s sensibility — comparable to the European intimism of Bonnard, a painter he greatly admires — placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternative way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.
Born in Pittsburgh, US in 1923
Died in New York City, US in 2013
None of Leiter’s contemporaries, with the single and partial exception of Helen Levitt, assembled a comparable body of work in color. The lyricism and intensity of his vision come into fullest play in his eloquent handling of color: to the rapid recording of the spontaneous unfolding of life on the street, Leiter adds an unconventional sense of form and a brilliantly improvisational, and frequently almost abstract, use of found colors and tones. Leiter’s visual language of fragmentation, ambiguity and contingency is evoked in Saul Leiter: Early Color by one hundred subtle, painterly images that stretched the boundaries of photography in the second half of the twentieth-century. (source: steidl)