Dorothea Lange at MOMA

My knowledge of art could be contained in the smallest of Fabergé boxes. I’m uneducated when it comes to different periods and “the Masters,” but I suspect that early to mid 20th century works are my first choice. I’m also certain that most of the time when it comes to photography, I prefer the Mistress over the Master. Case in point – Dorothea Lange.

Sunday morning I popped into the new Museum of Modern Art for the first time since its expansion and October 2019 reopening. The space is fabulous – airy, uncrowded and beautifully laid out. I arrived at 10:15 a.m., fifteen minutes prior to opening, eager to get into the Lange exhibit early in an attempt to avoid the crush of a large audience. My efforts paid off. I was able to comfortably pace myself through the gallery without the pressure of elbow-to-elbow art afficiendos.

What can I say? I related to the cane post knee surgery.

Dorothea Lange’s work was groundbreaking. Her photographs were accompanied by captions – often direct quotes from the subjects depicted in a piece – which provided an intense connection between the visual image and the voices of those pictured. Lange documented the world as she saw it and attempted through her art to persuade others to respond to the injustices she witnessed.

Lange’s photographs are unmistakable. She framed her subjects with cultural landmarks, which silently added commentary to the images in a most powerful fashion. The curator of this particular exhibit greatly impressed me with their skill in arranging the photos, most of which are 70+ years old, in a way that communicates the unabated continuation of the social and economic problems Lange captured. Poverty. Migrants. Racial discrimination. There’s a timeless quality to the work which is heartbreaking, yet Lange’s sensitivity and compassion provide an optimism, a message of hope that if we can come together as human beings together we can rise.

The show is up through May 9th and if you’re in NYC, I highly recommend it. Stop up on the 5th floor while you’re there for a soul filling stare at Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or to take in a few of the gorgeous Picasso’s dancing across the walls. Let me know what you think.

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