You are currently viewing Artful Dodger: Tyrone Simpson on Aaron Siskind
Aaron Siskind, Homage to Franz Klein, 1975. Bromoil gelatin silver print, 40x35.5 cm

Artful Dodger: Tyrone Simpson on Aaron Siskind

Today’s post comes from Deborah Steinberg, Class of 2014 and Art Center Intern.

Aaron Siskind (American 1903-1991), Homage to Franz Kline: Rome 83, 1973, Gelatin silver print, Gift of Frances F. L. Beatty, class of 1970, in honor of Linda Nochlin Pommer, class of 1951, 1984.51.1.e

Tyrone Simpson, Associate Professor of English, stated in this week’s Artful Dodger that, “Urban image making is dangerous and threatening for me,” because it calcifies what people come to think about urban experience. Both Simpson’s book project, Ghetto Images in Twentieth Century American Literature, and the several Aaron Siskind photographs that were the subject of his talk deal explicitly with the social and aesthetic issues of documenting urban space. Simpson gave a brief history of Aaron Siskind and discussed his own experiences with the artist. He described how he first came across Siskind’s Haarlem: A Document – a collection of documentary and realist images from the 1930s that capture both private and public spaces.

As a result of the New Deal, Siskind and like-minded artists were commissioned to create a hymn to the people of sorts. There was a concern on the artist’s part to portray of the social reality at the time, yet also wrestle with the fact that this social reality is uncapturable. Siskind tried to address this by turning to expressionism, by producing non-narrative images, ones that are not “over determined” as Simpson described. His art became much more abstract, a progression which viewers can see in the images that Simpson chose for the talk.

Professor Simpson argued that when we hear things about urban space, we already have images in our personal archives, shaped by our feelings and identities. To illustrate this, he asked how visitors felt about three Siskind photographs. People discussed what the images evoked for them, with responses that ranged from paintings, to things in their work, to emotions. Since the group was generally drawn to the third, most abstract of the photographs, viewers looked more closely at a Siskind portfolio, “Homage to Franz Klein” from which the abstract photograph had come. It was a wonderful opportunity to engage with the photographs that the Art Center has to offer and to hear an analysis from a historical and urban studies perspective.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. learn photography online

    I wish to show thanks to this writer just for rescuing me from this dilemma. As a result of exploring throughout the search engines and coming across advice that were not beneficial, I believed my entire life was well over. Living without the presence of solutions to the difficulties you’ve resolved by way of your good guide is a serious case, and those that would have negatively affected my career if I hadn’t come across your website. Your main talents and kindness in touching almost everything was excellent. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not come across such a stuff like this. I’m able to at this time look forward to my future. Thanks so much for your skilled and results-oriented guide. I will not be reluctant to refer your blog post to anybody who needs guidance on this subject matter.

Leave a Reply