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“In Passing: Evelyn Hofer, Helen Levitt, and Lilo Raymond” @ NYPL Schwarzman Building, through May 23, 2010

Photograph by Lilo Raymond
Photograph by Lilo Raymond

To coincide with Women’s History Month and the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project, this small exhibition of photographs culled from the Library’s Photography Collection commemorates three female photographers who passed away in 2009: two German contemporaries Evelyn Hofer and Lilo Raymond (both born in 1922) who re-located to the United States in the 1940s, and American Helen Levitt (born 1913).  The exhibition is hung along both walls of the third-floor hallway in NYPL’s Schwarzman Building, leading to the Pforzheim Collection.  There are 35 photographs in this exhibition: 13 photos by Helen Levitt, mostly of sidewalk scenes shot in her native-Brooklyn during the 1940s, as part of her A Way of Seeing series; 3 color photos by Evelyn Hofer of city scenes in Paris, London, and Barcelona; 12 photos of quiet interiors by Lilo Raymond; and 7 portraits by Evelyn Hofer.  The framed photos are grouped by photographer and series.

In observing library patrons and tourists walking from/towards the men’s room or specialized collections on this floor, there is certainly a sense of loss and negligence which suffers from the works’ location.  One could say that this small exhibit is experienced quite literally, ‘in passing’ to the verge of being overlooked or ignored.  However, if one takes time to look carefully, pause and read the introductory wall text (all the way in the opposite corner), with a quote from James Agee’s essay for Helen Levitt’s A Way of Seeing, referring to Goethe’s thoughts on the act of looking, we learn about the curatorial framework for this selection, which is, an attempt to offer viewers “solace in their [artists’] absence.”  There are also extensive biographies on each artist.  The exhibition’s prepositional title is triply-fitting, and altogether meet: one views the photographs physically in passing, on his/her way elsewhere; and the photographs on display impart or pass onto the viewer the aesthetic visions of these three artists; finally, in memoriam to their passing.

Read more about the exhibit at the NYPL website.

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