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Real Worlds, According to Photography by Brassaï, Arbus and Goldin

  • Nan Goldin - Picnic on the Esplanade, Boston, 1973
  • Nan Goldin - Millie with cheeseburger radio at home, New York City, 1980
  • Nan Goldin - Kim and Mark in the red car, Newton, Mass., 1978
  • Nan Goldin - Greer and Robert on the bed, New York City, 1982,
  • Brassaï - An English girl in her dressing room at the Folies-Bergere, c.1932, A prostitute playing Russian billiards, Boulevard Rochechouart, Montmartre, c. 1932
  • Brassaï - A couple at Le Monocle, c. 1932, At the Cabane Cubaine in Montmartre, c. 1932
  • Brassaï - Lovers, Place d’Italie, c. 1932
  • Brassaï - Le Monocle, the bar. On the left is Lulu de Montparnasse, c. 1932
March 4, 2018
A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

A Hungarian–French photographer, sculptor, medallist, writer, and filmmaker, Brassaï is known for capturing the truth as well as forging the myth of Parisian bohemia. On the other hand, Diane Arbus is famous for her poignant portraits of individuals on the margins of society, such as street people, transvestites, nudists, and carnival performers. Nan Goldin, a photographer with a body of work uncompromisingly honest, documented love, sexuality, glamour, beauty, death, intoxication and pain.

All of these remarkable image-makers have used their camera to reflect and transform the world around them. This distinct quality will be explored in the upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Titled Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin, the exhibition feature approximately one hundred works by the three artists.

The exhibition is based on the collection of images in their iconic photobooks – Brassaï’s The Secret Paris of the 30’s from 1976 comprised of iconic images of the nocturnal denizens of Paris, unsettling portraits from Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph from 1972, and Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency from 1986, a searingly poignant documentation of her life and those in it.

Brassaï - Kiki with her accordion player at the Cabaret des Fleurs, Rue de Montparnasse, c. 1932, Streetwalker near the Place d'Italie, c. 1932
Left: Brassaï – Kiki with her accordion player at the Cabaret des Fleurs, Rue de Montparnasse, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print / Right: Brassaï – Streetwalker near the Place d’Italie, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print, 12 x 8 3/4 in. (30.48 x 22.23 cm). Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection

The Work of Brassaï and Diane Arbus

Enduring and influential, the works of Brassaï, Arbus and Goldin continue to resonate with intimacy and immediacy.

Capturing what went on in Paris’s illustrious nightlife, Brassaï published his images forty years later in his seminal book The Secret Paris of the 30s. Documenting the nocturnal city and its residents, from nightclubs to its covert brothels, the photographer created one of the most evocative photographic memoirs ever published.

Alongside Brassaï’s daring photographs, the exhibition will feature Diane Arbus’ powerful body of work published in Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Arbus documented a diverse range of individuals in moments that are at once euphoric and banal. With subject ranging from nudists to suburban families to people pushing the limits of gender, Arbus revealed their vulnerability on both sides of the camera lens.

Nan Goldin - “Variety” booth, New York City, 1983, The Hug, New York City, 1980
Left: Nan Goldin – “Variety” booth, New York City, 1983. Cibachrome print / Right: Nan Goldin – The Hug, New York City, 1980. Cibachrome print, 14 x 11 in. (35.6 x 27.9 cm). Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Nimoy Family Foundation

The Work of Nan Goldin

Finally, the exhibition will present photographs from Nan Goldin’s seminal body of work titled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. A deeply personal narrative formed out of the artist’s own experiences around Boston, New York, Berlin, and elsewhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this body of work documents the social lives of the artist and a bohemian cast of characters around her.

In addition to the photographs, the exhibition will include a digital presentation of Goldin’s original 35mm-slide installation The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, portraying friends and lovers in cheap hotels, dive bars, and transient spaces across the globe as well as within the charged domestic setting of the artist’s New York City apartment.

Diane Arbus - A young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965, 1965, Brassaï - Young couple wearing a two-in-one suit at the Bal de la Montagne Sainte-Genevieve, c. 1931
Left: Diane Arbus – A young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965, 1965. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm) / Right: Brassaï – Young couple wearing a two-in one suit at the Bal de la Montagne Sainte Genevieve, c. 1931. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection

Brassai, Arbus and Goldin at MOCA

Spanning more than sixty years, work from these three influential photographers trace a dynamic history of the representation and identity, as well as the role photography had in it.

The exhibition Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin will be on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles at MOCA Grand Avenue from March 4th until September 3rd, 2018. The members opening will be held on Saturday, March 3rd, from 7 to 9 p.m.

The show is organized by Lanka Tattersall, Assistant Curator, with Rebecca Matalon, Curatorial Associate, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. It will be accompanied by a full-color publication featuring conversations between MOCA Assistant Curator Lanka Tattersall and three of today’s most magnificent thinkers: writer and critic Hilton Als, writer Maggie Nelson, and artist A. L. Steiner. Als, Nelson, and Steiner lend their critical voices to the simultaneously elegant, brutal, and tender works of Brassaï, Arbus, and Goldin.

Featured images: Nan Goldin – Picnic on the Esplanade, Boston, 1973. Cibachrome print, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). The Nimoy Family Foundation; Millie with cheeseburger radio at home, New York City, 1980. Cibachrome print, 10 3/4 x 14 in. (27.31 x 35.56 cm). The Nimoy Family Foundation; Kim and Mark in the red car, Newton, Mass., 1978; Greer and Robert on the bed, New York City, 1982. Cibachrome print, 10 3/4 x 14 in. (27.31 x 35.56 cm) The Nimoy Family Foundation; Left: Brassaï – An English girl in her dressing room at the Folies-Bergere, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print, 11 1/4 x 8 3/4 in. (28.6 x 22.2 cm). The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection / Right: Brassaï – A prostitute playing Russian billiards, Boulevard Rochechouart, Montmartre, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print, 15 3/8 x 11 1/4 in. (39.05 x 28.58 cm). The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection; Left: Brassaï – A couple at Le Monocle, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print, 15 1/4 x 11 1/8 in. (38.74 x 28.26 cm). The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection / Right: Brassaï – At the Cabane Cubaine in Montmartre, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print, 11 7/8 x 9 in. (30.2 x 22.9 cm). The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection; Brassaï – Lovers, Place d’Italie, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print, 14 1/2 x 11 in. (36.83 x 27.94 cm). The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection; Brassaï – Le Monocle, the bar. On the left is Lulu de Montparnasse, c. 1932. Gelatin silver print. The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection. All images courtesy of MOCA.