Exhibition Explores How Photography, Graphic Design,
and Magazines Transformed Mid-Century American
Visual Culture

Lillian Bassman, Blowing Kiss, 1958. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Eric and Lizzie Himmel, New York. © Estate of Lillian Bassman.

Release Date: October 16, 2020

Exhibition Explores How Photography, Graphic Design, and Magazines Transformed Mid-Century American Visual Culture

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Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine
NEW OPENING DATE: April 3 — July 11, 2021

New York, NY, October 14, 2020 — The Jewish Museum will present Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine, an exhibition exploring how photography, graphic design, and popular magazines converged to transform American visual culture from 1930 to 1960. The exhibition will be on view from April 3 through July 11, 2021.

The exhibition highlights a time-period during which avant-garde strategies in photography and design reached the United States via European émigrés, including Bauhaus artists forced out of Nazi Germany. The unmistakable aesthetic made popular by such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue — whose art directors, Alexey Brodovitch and Alexander Liberman, were immigrants and accomplished photographers — emerged from a distinctly American combination of innovation, inclusiveness, and pragmatism. 

Featuring over 150 works including photographs, layouts, and cover designs, the exhibition considers the connections and influences of designers and photographers such as Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman, Lester Beall, Margaret Bourke-White, Louis Faurer, Robert Frank, William Klein, Lisette Model, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, Cipe Pineles, and Paul Rand. 

Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine is organized by Mason Klein, Senior Curator, The Jewish Museum. 

The accompanying catalogue by Mason Klein, with essays by Maurice Berger, Leslie Camhi, and Marvin Heiferman, is published by the Jewish Museum and Yale University Press. The essays draw a lineage from European experimental design to innovative work in American magazine design at mid-century and offer insights into the role of gender in fashion photography and political activism in the mass media. 

Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine is made possible by The Mimi and Barry J. Alperin Family Fund, a gift from the estate of Gaby and Curtis Hereld, Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, Heidi and Richard Rieger, Wyeth Foundation for American Art, Lisa S. Pritzker, Ronit and Bill Berkman, John and Helga Klein, and Ellen Schwartz Harris. Additional support is provided by The Skirball Fund for American Jewish Life Exhibitions, Horace W. Goldsmith Exhibitions Endowment Fund, The Alfred J. Grunebaum & Ruth Grunebaum Sondheimer Memorial Fund, and other generous donors. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Jewish Museum

Located on New York City’s famed Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum is a distinctive hub for art and Jewish culture for people of all backgrounds. Founded in 1904, the Museum was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. Devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, the Museum offers diverse exhibitions and programs, and maintains a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years. The public may call 212.423.3200 or visit TheJewishMuseum.org for more information.  

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Daniela Stigh, dstigh@thejm.org