October 31, 1985:
A Summer’s Day: Photographs by Joel Meyerowitz, an exhibition of sixty-six color photographs taken by Joel Meyerowitz at the beach communities on Cape Cod, in New York and in California between 1976 and 1983, will open at The Brooklyn Museum’s Robert E. Blum Gallery on the first floor on November 8, 1985 and be on view through January 13, 1986. This exhibition was organized by Barbara Millstein, Associate Curator, Department of Paintings and Sculpture, and Barry Walker, Associate Curator, Department of Prints and Drawings.
Meant to be viewed serially, the photographs capture the essence of a summer’s day from first light through nightfall. Although his ostensible subjects--landscape, seascape, still life, portraiture--are immediately recognizable, Meyerowitz’s paramount concern is the quality of light and how it can alter perception.
Meyerowitz, who was born in New York in 1938, began his photographic career in 1963, working as a street photographer with a 35mm camera in the tradition of his two early mentors, Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. As he began to explore color and his concerns became more formal, Meyerowitz switched to a large-format view camera because of his ability to capture striking clarity of detail and record the most subtle nuances of color. All photographs in A Summer’s Day were taken with a 1938 vintage 8x10 view camera. The negatives were first contact-printed, then enlarged for exhibition, Meyerowitz devotes as much attention to making the perfect print as he does to composing the image.
In A Summer’s Day, Meyerowitz invests such commonplace objects as clothespins on a line, a deck chair, or a screened-in porch with a dignity that transcends their mundane utility. His use of clear New England light to dignify and monumentalize ordinary objects and architecture has often prompted comparison of his photographs with the paintings of Edward Hopper. In his frequently unpeopied landscapes, Meyerowitz, like Hopper, achieves poignancy without any trace of sentimentality.
Meyerowitz’s viewpoint, as expressed in the photographs shown in the exhibition, is essentially affirmative. Although a storm may occur, it creates its own kind of beauty. He succeeds in making the viewer reexamine the familiar, producing simultaneous reactions of recognition and the feeling of truly seeing something for the first time. Although the object or scene may be familiar, Meyerowitz endows it with a sense of mystery through his heightened awareness of light and almost palpable depiction of air. A Summer’s Day is thus the essence of any and every summer day one has experienced and at the same time a revelation of the way in which we perceive the experience.
A cloth-bound book with 65 color plates accompanies the exhibition (Members $33.95; Nonmembers $39.95). A 26-by-30-inch poster of “The Cottages” is also available (Members $21.25; Nonmembers $25.00).
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1985, 052.