Kicken Berlin will be exhibiting a small selection of work by Diane Arbus in the early summer of 2012. The comprehensive show of some thirty prints is being mounted in collaboration with the Robert Miller Gallery of New York. Kicken considers Diane Arbus’s work seminal to photography in the second half of the twentieth century; no other photographer approached her subjects so directly or openly. Arbus’s portraits are characterized by her fascination and wonderment with those unique phenomena of everyday life, which she captured on her “vertical journey” through American society between the late 1950s and early 1970s.
The exhibited works reflect the photographer’s mandate to study people, their actions and comportment, in the most diverse public and private spaces. This includes life on the street and in public parks, where so many different people encounter one another. The dramatic Puerto Rican Woman with a Beauty Mark and Woman with a Veil on Fifth Avenue are just as much a part of the body of work as a woman on a park bench – Woman with a Locket in Washington Square Park – or the smoking boys in Central Park. While these people show their everyday faces, the subjects at any number of social events and amusements such as at art openings, balls, parties, fairs, and even very simple gatherings of friends in private apartments emanate a representative or even glamorous air – but upon closer observation seem almost fragile: Lady in a Tiara at a Ball, Four People at a Gallery Opening, A Woman in a Bird Mask, and Four Russian Midget Friends in Living Room. Images such as A Castle at Disney Land, A House on a Hill, Hollywood, and of funk legend James Brown at Home in Curlers depict the life of the stage – and grant a look behind the scenes. The figure of the transvestite, in its many different manifestations such as in Seated Man in Bra and Stockings or Transvestite at a Drag Ball, brings questions of representation and self-image to a head.