A silver gelatin print by Roy DeCarava, titled Curved branch, dated 1994.

Roy DeCarava: "Visually Rigorous yet Incalculably Sensitive"

The New York Times, Critic's Pick by Roberta Smith

"At Zwirner on the Upper East Side, the sound I saw concentrates on DeCarava’s photographs of musical subjects. At Zwirner in Chelsea, the much larger Light Break treats the full range of his interests, from the civil rights movement to images of urban workers, landscapes and parks. Totaling nearly 150 photographs, this is a museum-worthy undertaking seen in the more accessible, intimate spaces of the commercial gallery—the best of both worlds.

DeCarava’s work is itself the best of both worlds: visually rigorous yet incalculably sensitive to the human predicament and the psychology of everyday life, especially concerning but not limited to African-Americans. He studied painting and printmaking, before committing to the camera, which may have helped him enrich his new medium in terms of both appearance and meaning. DeCarava’s reputation began to grow in the early 1950s, based on his sympathetic portrayals of the residents of Harlem, where he was born in 1919 and raised by a single mother, and of the numerous musical luminaries pursuing blues or jazz, this country’s first modern art. These included Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, who figure in the uptown show."

Read the full review in The New York Times

Concurrent exhibitions of Roy DeCarava's work are on view in New York through October 26, 2019: Light Break is on view at 533 West 19th Street, and the sound i saw at 34 East 69th Street.

Image: Roy DeCarava, Curved branch, 1994 (detail)


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