Just off of the Rambla de Catalunya, the Fundación Mapfre, in the stunning Casa Garriga Nogúes. has put together another excellent photography exhibit, elevating once again, the art that we can see here in Barcelona. From 20th of February to 19th of May, the Casa Garriga Nogués is home to the works of Berenice Abbott (1898)-1991), as well as some pieces by the french photographer Eugéne Atget (1857-1927).
I have been to a number of exhibitions here before but I always enjoy walking into this elegant old building and well conceived gallery. The exhibition is extended across two floors that are organized logically without too many surprises.
We get to know the artists in the first room through self-portraits and her portraits of contemporaries. . The artist’s cartoonishly abstracted face in Self-Portrait-Distortion from 1930. is one of the first pieces we see Among the portraits, Abbott took pictures of Peggy Guggenheim (the famous art collector), James Joyce (the Irish novelist) and Sylvia Beach (owner of Shakespear and Company) among others. Many of her models make an appearance in Ernest Hemingway’s The Moveable Feast which I just happened to have read earlier in the week and could be found in the gift shop. In the middle of the room of portraits are two of Eugéne Atget whose influence is highlighted later in the exhibition.
The next room included over 20 photographs of the city of New York where she lived after Paris.Her cityscapes served to show the city in transition as she shows what was gained as well as what was lost as the city grew. Construction Old and New from Washington St. 1936 is a great example of this.
After moving upstairs, the first room includes more photographs of New York and its boroughs. A small room to the side shows Eugéne Atget’s work. A documentary photographer, Atget documented industrialization’s effect on Paris but was not considered to have gone beyond the role of a documentarian even though he was well respected by Man Ray who Abbott worked for.. It is nice to see Atget’s work as a counterpoint to Abbot’s cityscapes and street photography that comes later in the visit.
Abbott took many photographs of objects in motion and illustrative images for the dissemination of scientific education. The final room includes disappointingly few of her scientific works. I would have loved to have seen many more of these as it was unusual at the time to see a woman working as an editor of scientific publications.
As usual the Fundación Mapfre consolidated a lovely group of works and showed them in such a way that it was a pleasure to spend an hour exploring Abbott’s work in detail. The grey walls and forest green accents did not tire the eyes and the wall texts was concise and informative.