From the exuberant expanse of flappers dancing through the Jazz Age to the enigmatic allure of circus performers suspended between reality and fantasy, Diane Arbus possessed an uncanny ability to crystallize the unvarnished beauty inherent in life’s most intricate moments.
Hosted by the Luma Foundation in Arles, France, Diane Arbus: Constellation boasts the largest collection of Arbus prints ever displayed, showcasing the outcome of her tireless search. The curator’s decision to arrange the photographs without a designated path mimics Arbus’ meandering exploration of New York streets, allowing visitors to experience her work in an immersive manner.
Her lens, a perceptive bridge between surface and soul, captured the profound chasm that often exists between our outward facades and the unfiltered truths that dwell within. Arbus’ oeuvre became a testament to her keen observations of humanity, a reflection of her own journey through its diverse landscapes.
The selection of her favorite subjects, ranging from female impersonators to lobby murals and dioramas of murderers, offers insight into her fascination with the multifaceted nature of human identity. The exhibition reveals rare and unpublished images, expanding our understanding of her oeuvre. Some lesser-known images, while not rivaling her iconic works, shed light on the breadth of her exploration.
Her portrayal of individuals with empathy intertwined with irony remains the subject of debate. Critics’ attempts to categorize her approach as solely compassionate or derisive miss the point entirely. Arbus’ photographs encapsulate the paradoxes of human existence, showcasing both courage and absurdity in the human condition, much like the writings of Franz Kafka.
Featured Image: Diane Arbus: A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y (1968). Courtesy of The Estate of Diane Arbus / Collection Maja Hoffmann / LUMA Foundation. Source: Artforum