Featuring an array of photographs taken in New York spanning from the 1940s to the 1970s, David Vestal: Once Upon a Time in New York offers the opportunity to consider this under-appreciated master in greater detail. Learning the idiom of photography through the Photo League, where he was a member and befriended Sid Grossman, Vestal developed a distinctive approach outside the general doctrine associated with that group, generally eschewing the photographic essay in favor of single images that could stand on their aesthetic qualities alone. With an outstanding flare for the atmospheric, Vestal’s photographs from this era place him in dialogue with luminaries such as Robert Frank, Aaron Siskind, and Berenice Abbott.
A flâneur of postwar New York, Vestal trains his lens on lone figures in the urban landscape, captured within the atmospheric plays of light. Framed by the severe geometries of city and the photographer’s often acute angles, such images balance film noir’s cinematic suggestiveness with an iconic appreciation of the organic pulse of the city, especially seen at night. Vestal’s is a world as seen from loft windows and alleyways, fire escapes and crosswalks. Such scenes are further mediated by the artists masterful handling of sumptuous prints – spectacular objects in their own right, and skillful evocations of a particular time in New York.
David Vestal was born in Menlo Park, California in 1924. Once Upon a Time in New York is his third solo exhibition with Robert Mann Gallery. In addition to his photographs, he is a respected critic, educator, and the author of influential books on the craft of photography and black and white printing. He was the recipient of John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships in 1966 and 1973. He continues to regularly lecture and present at workshops around the country. His photographs are included in significant public collections including the Whitney Museum of America Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, among many others.
View David Vestal: Once Upon a Time in New York at www.robertmann.com beginning October 28, 2010.