Cheim & Read is pleased to present two new exhibitions, Diane Arbus: Untitled and Cumwizard69420: The Americans, at the gallery’s Chelsea location, 547 West 25th Street, New York. The shows open on January 12, 2023, and run through March 18.
Writing about the Diane Arbus retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005, Peter Schjeldahl stated, “No other photographer has been more controversial,” and no other body of Arbus’s work has been more controversial than Untitled, a series of images depicting the residents of a home for the developmentally disabled in New Jersey. In fact, the photographs were never exhibited in her lifetime, but published posthumously as a book edited and designed by Doon Arbus, the artist’s daughter, and Yolanda Cuomo in 1995.
Taken between 1969 and 1971, the year of Arbus’s death at the age of 48, the photographs of Untitled offer a distinct contrast with the tightly framed imagery of her 1960s work. Instead of confronting the immediate gaze of her subjects, Arbus takes a step back, opening the lens up to their surroundings, the park-like grounds of the home where they lived. In a number of images, the women and men are costumed and masked for a Halloween party, further distancing them from the viewer, in theatrical scenes that are at once alienating, beguiling, and dreamlike.
Reviewing Untitled on the occasion of its publication in 1995, Hilton Als declared that these photographs “can’t be confined by critical categorization, because they are purely ecstatic; they are the pictures Arbus had been waiting all her life to take.”