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C California Style

Los Angeles, 1980-83.
New York, 1969.
Garry Winogrand, 1967. PHOTO: Courtesy Eileen Adele Hale.

Unscripted Moments

by C California Style

The candid work of Garry Winogrand is the subject of an intriguing retrospective at SFMOMA

Erotic women (you can practically smell their perfume) and brash upper-crust men, zoo animals and the deformed are common protagonists in a Garry Winogrand photo. The characters may be caught in an unflattering moment, mid-step or stealing a kiss, but Winogrand’s work does not judge. From the ’50s to the ’80s, the Bronx-born artist captured New York and the West, showing simmering uncertainty below the surface of a barely placid world.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art delves into Winogrand’s oeuvre this month with his first retrospective in 25 years. Half of the work in the exhibition has yet to be seen. When Winogrand died at age 56, in 1984, he left behind more than 6,500 rolls of film and countless contact sheets. Guest curator Leo Rubinfien, SFMOMA’s Erin O’Toole, and the National Gallery of Art’s Sarah Greenough sifted through the trove to find images that perpetuate the crusty, Yeats-worthy myth of Winogrand: art “which does not teach, which does not cry out, which does not condescend, which does not explain.” “Garry Winogrand,” Mar. 9; sfmoma.org.

Written and edited by Elizabeth Khuri Chandler
Winogrand photographs © the estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco