Berenice Abbott: Portraits of Modernity, on show in Barcelona

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“To me photography is a means – perhaps the best means of our age – of widening knowledge of our world. Photography is a method of education, for acquainting people of all ages and conditions with the truth about life today,” wrote photographer Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), in an unpublished text, Statement in Regard to Photography Today, 1946From portraits of elite avant-garde circles in Paris, to rapidly-changing cityscapes of her New York City, plus a career in science journalism, ideas of modernity pervade Abbott’s legacy.

Born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1898, Abbott studied sculpture in New York before moving to Paris in 1921, where she worked as an assistant at the Man Ray studio. There, she mastered the art of photography, and in 1926 held her first solo show at the gallery Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris, where she exhibited portraits of the Parisian avant-garde.

When Abbott returned to New York in 1929, she was struck by how rapidly the city was developing. This lead to her series Changing New York, and soon after she turned her attention to scientific phenomena and experiments, eventually working as picture editor for Science Illustrated and inventing photographic machines like a darkroom distorter and picture composer.

Abbott’s long arc of work paints a portrait of modernity in the new century, a premise on which the major new exhibition of her work at Barcelona’s Fundacion Mapfre is based. It will show almost 200 photographs grouped into three sections, along with a small selection of work by Eugène Atget, a great friend and inspiration to Abbott, with 11 of his photographs developed by Abbott herself in 1956.

https://www.fundacionmapfre.org Berenice Abbott: Portraits of Modernity will run at the Fundación MAPFRE in Barcelona till 19 May 2019. Following its showing in Barcelona, the exhibition will go on display at the Fundación MAPFRE’s Sala Recoletos in Madrid from 01 June till 23 August

Berenice Abbott. A Bouncing Ball in Diminshing Arcs, 1958-1961. Berenice Abbott Collection, MIT Museum. Gift of Ronald and Carol Kurtz © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. Rockefeller Center, ca. 1932. Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. Bread Store, 259 Bleecker Street, Manhattan. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. West Street, 1932. International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lois and Bruce Zenkel Purchase Fund, 1983 © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. Aerial view of New York at Night, 20 March 1936. International Center of Photography, Gift of Daniel, Richard, and Jonathan Logan, 1984 © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. Eugène Atget, 1927. International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the Lois and Bruce Zenkel Purchase Fund, 1984 © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott. George Antheil, 1927. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations © Getty Images/Berenice Abbott
Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.