In short

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Eve Arnold, School for non-violence, Virginia, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
Eve Arnold, School for non-violence, Virginia, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

The exhibition Songs and the Sky at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery offers an original way of presenting certain works in the gallery’s collection by associating each series with a historically and conceptually pertinent musical composition. The title of the exhibition derives from the original title for Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents (cloud patterns taken between 1925 and 1937). It is rare to be able to see such a large selection of Stieglitz’s images, and the audio accompaniment by Ernest Bloch lends them added history and beauty. The four other pairings are equally felicitous, and the headset enhances the impression of nearly meditative intimacy. This is true especially of the series Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation (1953–1961) by Aaron Siskind, which is wonderfully paired with John Cage’s 44 Harmonies from Apartment House 1776 (1976), plumbing the Baroque depths of Marin Marais’ compositions for the viola da gamba.

Without knowing exactly what the music brings to the photographs, one feels a powerful connection. The scores are available in the exhibition to clarify the choices made, and we are struck by the words of Aaron Siskind who wanted to “bring [his] pictures to the ideal of music.” Songs and the Sky is not just about photography; the stroke of genius is to bring us closer to something that is more universal and more subtle: to that “affirmation of life” evoked by John Cage, to the simple possibility of being moved.

Songs and the Sky
« An exhibition of art and music »
Artists : Lisette Model, Barbara Morgan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Alfred Stieglitz.
Music : Ernest Bloch, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Arnold Schoenberg, Chris Washburne.
From April 28th to June 18th,2016
Bruce Silverstein Gallery
535 West 24th Street
10011 New York
United States