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Israel Museum opens Displaced Visions: Emigre Photographers of the 20th Century

Israel Museum presents Displaced Visions: Emigre Photographers of the 20th Century, on view through October 5, 2013, the exhibition showcases works by Bill Brandt, Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz, Man Ray, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Moholy Nagy, and Weegee, along with New York School photographers and many others.

Featuring more than 220 works drawn primarily from the Israel Museum’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary photography, Displaced Visions focuses in particular on the earliest photographs taken by the artists in their new countries, exploring how this work expanded photographic practices of the time and influenced the history of the medium.

“Displaced Visions builds on the Israel Museum’s dedication to expanding new scholarship in the field of photography by reconsidering the impact of place on 20th-century émigré photographers. The exhibition is the first to examine in-depth the effect of this displacement on the creative visions of these photographers—how it opened the doors to new artistic horizons and gave new meaning to avant-garde practice in the 20th century, and how it ultimately influenced the history of photography itself,” said James S. Snyder, the Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum.

A large percentage of photographers from the early modern period were immigrants, either by choice or necessity. Unlike the traveling photographers of the 19th century who chose to visit new countries and other cultures, the majority of these expatriates were propelled into unfamiliar environments for the long-term, often completely unprepared. Many embraced photography as a way to document their changing psychological, cultural, linguistic, and environmental realties. The interaction of person and place often encouraged both self-expression and a process of new territorial exploration.

Displaced Visions examines what these artists photographed and how they observed, interpreted, and documented the mundane realities of their new environments through the filters of their own cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. The exhibition includes well-known images such as the parlourmaids of Bill Brandt, Parisian night photographs of George Brassaï and images of New York by Andre Kertesz, and also presents many lesser-known photographs that illustrate the artists’ first attempts to record their new realities. Among others, the exhibition highlights previously unknown images by prominent figures in 20th century photography, including collages by Dora Maar, Paris views by Germaine Krull and Man Ray, early surrealist works by Philippe Halsmann, and newly discovered work by Roman Vishniac.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum plans an international symposium on June 25–26, 2013, with historians, philosophers, anthropologists, and artists to discuss together the theme of “In a Strange Land: The Photographic and Artistic Interpretation of Unfamiliar Environments.” The event will be chaired by anthropologist Marc Augé, France, and among the speakers will be: Bois Groys, New York University; Svetlana Boym, Harvard University; Bernard-Henri Lévy, France; Malcolm Le Grice, Central Saint Martins University, UK; Shelley Rice, New York University; and others.

Displaced Visions is curated by Nissan N. Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator in the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography, and accompanied by a 240-page illustrated catalogue, including an index of all recorded immigrant photographers of the 20th century.