13 March – 6 April 2019
An exhibition of photographs by Harry Callahan (1912 – 1996) at Huxley-Parlour – the first UK exhibition of his work since it was displayed at Tate Modern in 2013.
Incorporating landscape, portraiture and abstraction, the exhibition demonstrates Callahan’s deeply personal response to his own life. His wife, daughter, and the streets, buildings and landscape of the cities he called home, were all re-occurring subjects of his work. Within his diverse subject matter, he established a singular aesthetic with a drive for experimentation which has had a lasting influence on post-war photography.
The exhibition focuses on works from the first two decades of Callahan’s career, from the early 1940s until the late 1950s, when he was based in Chicago. Callahan met Hungarian painter and photographer, László Moholy-Nagy in 1946, and went on to join the faculty of the New Bauhaus school that Moholy-Nagy had established in the city. The significance of this is evident in Callahan’s photographs from the 1940s which share the principles of Bauhaus design and experimentation. Much of his work from this period explores both total abstraction and the technicalities of the photographic medium, including use of double and triple exposures, blurs, extreme contrasts and collage.
Throughout this period in Chicago, Callahan meticulously and repeatedly photographed his wife Eleanor, his daughter Barbara, and the cityscape of Chicago. Eleanor was his most photographed subject and very often his portraits of her comfortably overlapped with his landscapes and abstraction, using her female form as its basis.
Born in 1912 (Detroit, Michigan), Harry Callahan worked as a clerk for Chrysler before attending a workshop by Ansel Adams in 1941 which led him to pursue photography. He lacked formal training, but his work demonstrated an intuitive interest in line and composition, as shown in his studies of nature as well as the urban environment. Since his first solo exhibition in 1947, Callahan’s work has been the subject of over sixty exhibitions around the world, including retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1955, Edward Steichen included Callahan’s work in the MoMA landmark touring exhibition, The Family of Man and he was the first photographer chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1978. His work is held in the permanent collections of many institutions including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.