Saturday, November 6, 2010

Paul McDonough Exhibit at Sasha Wolf Gallery Showcases New Book

Three Musicians, 1978 © Paul McDonough

For me, Paul McDonough is one of the unsung heros of photography. Although he has been creating images of keen observation and wit for many years, his work has remained largely under appreciated. Now, his second exhibition at Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York is accompanied by his first published book, hopefully bringing him more widespread notoriety in order to help correct this oversight. The exhibition entitled New York City, 1973-1978, together with the photographs from Paul's previous show at the gallery, comprise the work included in the monograph Paul McDonough: New York Photographs, 1968-1978 (Umbrage Editions, Fall 2010), which includes an essay by Museum of Modern Art curator Susan Kismaric. The book covers Paul's early work in photography when he was a new arrival in New York City. He was introduced to Garry Winogrand by childhood friend Tod Papageorge, and was soon inspired to switch from easel painting to street photography as a mode of expression. The pictures themselves not only capture the essence of the City during a time of turmoil and ferment, but have a timeless quality and irony found in spontaneous human drama. Paul has an eye for strange juxtapositions and split second coincidences which are simultaneously poignant and funny. His cast of characters include a encounter between a blind beggar and a hare krishna, three hungry car salesmen waiting for their next prey, a group of Japanese tourists at an exhibit of the first atomic bomb and a crazy collection of tree-climbing kids, bicycles and lovers (among others) in Central Park. The sum total effect of the work is bittersweet. Paul was a teacher of mine at Pratt Institute in the 1980's, and I remembered much of this work from exhibitions back then, an indiction of how well these photographs have endured the test of time. It was a pleasure to be able to experience them again, along with seeing the newly edited pictures for the first time. As Susan Kismaric concluded in her appreciation in the book, "In these pictures, working within a revered tradition so suitable for the pace of modern life, McDonough has applied his finely tuned intuition to show us nothing less than the poetry of daily life." 
War Museum Display-West Point 1975 © Paul McDonough

Central Park Pond-Kids in Tree 1973 © Paul McDonough