Look at This! ‘Brancusi: the Photographs’ at Bruce Silverstein Gallery

  • When venturing to galleries on summer days as hot as today, it’s best to visit only the best exhibitions, shows in which you will want to linger for a while, savoring dim lighting and air-conditioning. It is not a time for so-called gallery hopping. Bruce Silverstein‘s show of Brancusi photographs perfectly fits the bill. There are some 40 images, and nearly every one of them is remarkable. They show some of his most iconic sculptures—a 1920s shot of Sleeping Muse, no fewer than four images of Bird in Space—in his studio. Cloaked in shadows or gleaming under bracing light, the sculptures take on new lives.

    As I said back when Silverstein showed a handful of these photographs at the AIPAD Photography Show earlier this year, these works are being shown at an absolutely ideal time. Many young artists are making photos along the lines of Brancusi’s—think of Sara VanDerBeek photographs of her sometimes-brutal, sometimes-sensuous abstract sculptures or Talia Chetrit’s spare, almost-otherworldly still lifes.

    Brancusi’s self-portraits are particularly haunting. He’s standing atop a wooden piece in one, bringing down some kind of tool—an axe?—from above his head into the sculpture with a great deal of force; in another, he’s staring the camera down as he takes a deep drag on a cigarette. Shot around 1932–33, it looks like a man who is gunning for the history books.

    Time is short to see the exhibition. Brave this sweltering summer heat before it closes on Saturday.