“Vivian Maier, New York – Chicago and her double”: America in the 1950s, seen by a woman, photographer and amateur…

The artistic career of Vivian Maier, born in NY in 1926 and who died in Chicago in 2009 in total anonymity, is atypical and original.

The Musée du Luxembourg in Paris devoted a first retrospective to him at the end of 2021. Today the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Quimper and that of Pont-Aven are devoting two simultaneous exhibitions to him.

It is at the heart of American society, in New York and then in Chicago from 1956, that Vivian Maier bears witness to the major social and political changes in the history of the USA. It’s the time of the post-war American dream, of overexposed modernity whose behind the scenes constitutes the very essence of his work. The exhibition allows the public to discover previously unseen photographic and cinematographic archives discovered by chance in 2007 and to contribute to bringing Vivian Maier out of her anonymity. This exhibition thus makes it possible to grasp the full extent of the approach of this artist of French and Austro-Hungarian origin with regard to the world history of photography.

The exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper offers the freedom to walk through a sequenced tour of the rooms dedicated to the main themes of Vivian Maier’s photographic work. The scenography is intended to be effective and educational and is aimed at a wide audience.

– Street scenes:
On the fringes of the American dream and the skyscrapers that characterize New York and Chicago, it is a harsh and sometimes tender world that is revealed in the shots of Vivian Maier where she applies herself to photographing the anonymous multitude and the diversity of the inhabitants. through small nothings and spontaneous gestures. All the images made in black and white, as a trademark, were taken using his favorite camera, a Rolleiflex 6 x 6.

– Childhood :
Nanny and then governess throughout her entire life, Vivian Maier has maintained a benevolent view of the world of childhood in its confrontation with that of adults. Models or accomplices, sometimes appearing isolated and absorbed in their own universe, the children she shows us are those of the street, left to their own devices and who, during her urban peregrinations have become her companions.

– The formalism:
A deeply humanist photographer, Vivian Maier reveals in this part of the exhibition another dimension of her photographic work. She expresses an attraction for images in search of abstraction and formal research: composition, framing, geometry of forms, play of shadow and light. This aspect of his research undoubtedly opens a new chapter in contemporary American photography.

– The colour :
Succumbing to the attraction of color provoked by the rise of the kodachrome photographic industry and the use of a new, lighter material, the Leica, Vivian Maier freed herself from black and white from 1970 onwards. With the use of color, she explores the chromatic language and has fun with reality… As a painter would do, color becomes a subject and a source of inspiration in its own right.

– The portraits :
By working as a street portrait painter, Vivian Maier affirms her taste for ordinary people, women from working-class backgrounds, the elderly and the underprivileged, with whom she has always identified. By getting as close as possible to her models through the portrait, close-up, full face without concessions, she allows her models to resort to a new dignity and to conquer an identity.

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