Roy DeCarava: Selected Works | David Zwirner
A photograph by Roy DeCarava titled Two women, mannequin’s hand, dated 1952

Roy DeCarava: Selected Works

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Roy DeCarava (1919–2009) at its London location. This will be the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in London in over thirty years and the first presentation of his photographs in the city since inclusion in Tate Modern’s Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition in 2017.

Over the course of six decades, DeCarava produced a singular collection of black-and-white silver gelatin photographs that combines formal acuity with an intimate and deeply human treatment of his subjects. His pioneering work privileges the aesthetic qualities of the medium, providing a counterpoint to the prevailing view of photography as mere chronicle or document and helping it to gain acceptance as an art form in its own right. 


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Image: Roy DeCarava, Two women, mannequin’s hand, 1952 (detail)

 
Dates
January 14February 19, 2022

“My photographs are subjective and personal―they’re intended to be accessible, to relate to people’s lives.… People―their well-being and survival―are the crux of what’s important to me.”

—Roy DeCarava

 

A Silver gelatin print by Roy DeCarava, titled Two women, mannequin's hand, dated 1952.

Roy DeCarava

Two women, mannequin's hand, 1952
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)

“It is one of DeCarava’s first close-up, personal views of people on the street.… An intensely communicative image, we search for some explanation that will bring us from its precipice of anxiety to a more rational world. In one moment it all could have changed, for these women had merely stopped to admire clothes in a store window. Nothing ‘happens’ in this instant, yet everything is happening.”

—Sherry Turner DeCarava, art historian and scholar

 

A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Two men talking, lampost, dated 1977.

Roy DeCarava

Two men talking, lamppost, c. 1977
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)

A lifelong New Yorker, Roy DeCarava drew from his environment to produce a singular collection of black-and-white photographs of modern life that were both personal and universal.

Combining formal sensitivity with an intimate and deeply human treatment of his subject matter, his photographs speak to complex social and aesthetic issues without avoiding the intricacies of each image’s construction.

A Silver gelatin print by Roy DeCarava titled Skylight, dated 1965.

Roy DeCarava

Skylight, 1965
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)

“His work was, in fact, an exploration of just how much could be seen in the shadowed parts of a photograph, or how much could be imagined into those shadows.”

—Teju Cole, writer and art historian

A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Coltrane and Elvin, dated 1960.

Roy DeCarava

Coltrane and Elvin, 1960
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)

Having trained as a painter and draftsman, DeCarava first used a camera to gather visual information for his paintings.

By developing and printing his own images, DeCarava created a distinct and enduring aesthetic approach. He worked like a painter but without color or canvas, waiting out time and adjusting tone to allow for what he saw and felt to intensify. DeCarava believed this was the critical work of the darkroom, where the photograph came into its substantive being on its own terms.

A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Swan feathers, dated 1991.

Roy DeCarava

Swan feathers, 1991
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)

“[DeCarava’s images are] suffused with a kind of lyrical haze, a propensity for dim light and shadow, and suggest a language of the self, rich in tone, feeling, and abstraction.”

—Bennett Simpson, senior curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Reflection, dated 1986.

Roy DeCarava

Reflection, 1986
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)
A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Hallway, dated 1953.

Roy DeCarava

Hallway, 1953
Silver gelatin print
Print: 14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Framed: 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches (51.8 x 41.6 cm)

“DeCarava recognized early on that the process of making a photograph begins long before one even picks up the camera and is not complete until the image has been printed to its inner calling.”

—Roberta Smith, art critic

A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Exit only, dated 1975.

Roy DeCarava

Exit only, 1975
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)
A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Haynes, Jones and Benjamin, dated 1956.

Roy DeCarava

Haynes, Jones and Benjamin, 1956
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)

“He was composing works of art with light, shadow, and an unapologetic love of silver gelatin’s immersive tonalities—from the brightest rays of light to a scintillating obsidian darkness. He engaged these tones to articulate a shared human identity and community, all while broadly evoking his aesthetic principles.”

—Zoé Whitley, director of Chisenhale Gallery

 
 

A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Moon and branches, dated 2001.

Roy DeCarava

Moon and branches, 2001
Silver gelatin print
Print: 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches (41.6 x 51.8 cm)
A photograph by Roy DeCarava, titled Woman resting, subway entrance, dated 1952.

Roy DeCarava

Woman resting, subway entrance, 1952
Silver gelatin print
Print: 14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)
Framed: 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches (51.8 x 41.6 cm)

“A photograph is a photograph, a picture, an image, an illusion complete within itself, depending neither on words, reproductive processes or anything else for its life, its reason for being.”

—Roy DeCarava

 

Roy DeCarava on view in London

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Roy DeCarava on view in London

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Roy DeCarava works on view in London

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Roy DeCarava on view in London

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Installation view, Roy DeCarava: Selected Works, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Graduation Day by Roy DeCarava, 1984

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          Selected Works

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