The beginnings of my life as an artist photographer began back in 1989 when I visited The Museum of Modern Art and saw the show; Minor White: The Eye That Shapes, a large retrospective of the work of this very important artist photographer. The photographs on the wall were a revelation to me. Emotions swept over me, the impact of the tones on the wall was physical. I think a quote from Minor White’s writings sum up what his life and philosophy were and what I so admired about him:
“No matter what role we are in — photographer, beholder, critic – inducing silence for seeing in ourselves, we are given to see from a sacred place. From that place the sacredness of everything may be seen.”
I left the Museum that day knowing what I was going to pursue for the rest of my life.
There have not been any notable shows of Minor White’s work since then in the New York area. He seems to have fallen out of fashion. Contemplative imagery and photography that comes out of a search for self and the sacred have given way to hip, self referential and detached imagery. Which is why I was overjoyed when I saw the listing for the current show at The Howard Greenberg Gallery; Minor White: Eye, Mind, Spirit. It is a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Minor White’s birth. It is accompanied by a catalog; beautifully produced, with essays by Nathan Lyons and Peter Bunnell. I must point out that in the essay by Peter Bunnell the date of White’s departure from this world is given as 1967. Minor White passed away in 1976. Given that Mr. Bunnell is the world renown expert on Minor White I am assuming this is a typo.
The show consists of seminal images from White’s oeuvre and includes 2 complete sequences; The Sound of One Hand Clapping and Steely, The Barb of Infiinity. Minor White had an absolute genius for mixing the sacred and the profane in his images, although I suspect most of it was unconscious. In the Steely sequence phallic symbols arise from the purity of nature’s forces and Christian symbols from the man made.
All of the images in the show are superb examples of White’s gift as a printmaker. As I did back in 1989 at MOMA I will go back to the gallery to revisit these gems again and again before they are gone.