Opening Today: Danny Lyon Retrospective at The Whitney
Since 1962, Danny Lyon has been searching to “uncover the political in the personal and the personal in the political.” His philosophy on storytelling extends beyond the tools and the subject matter. Lyon pursues a way to create stories which will remain relevant and unadulterated for decades to come. He crafted montages to re-purpose still images into a presentation more akin to a cinematic storyboard than a photo collage, he recorded a song about facing the electric chair sung by a Texas prison inmate confronted with the death sentence and many other endeavors to archive the world with the analog. Lyon continues to explore new avenues for effective storytelling, crossing media and medium, crafting interdependent, interdisciplinary projects.
Currently on view, the Whitney Museum will present the work of American photographer, filmmaker and writer Danny Lyon in his most comprehensive exhibition in twenty-five years. Orchestrated by the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Danny Lyon: Message to the Future will be the first significant photography exhibition at the Museum’s new location in Chelsea. The exhibition will feature the Lyon’s achievements as a filmmaker, photographer and storyteller—combining photography with cinema and montage. The assembled work will grant the audience an unprecedented look into Lyon’s previously unseen archive of vintage prints, personal photo albums and 16mm film footage captured inside Texas prisons as well as work from his more notable projects like The Bikeriders (1968), the Destruction of Lower Manhattan (1969) and Conversations with the Dead (1971). Lyon, a humanist and leading figure of the 1960’s American street photography movement, is known for the distinctive intimacy with which he approaches his subjects.
In this retrospective, Lyon weaves together the written word, film and still images producing a historical narrative on the customs and behavior of humans in society. The artist skillfully bridges distance between audience and subject, an emotional connection established by the close physical proximity between those he photographs and the lens of his camera. He engages with his subjects and his impact on them is so clearly tied into the essence of his images.
A son of New York and friend to many of the great New York photographers, Lyon lives a creative life. He has an unerring commitment to framing moments of freedom and truth in a timeless fashion. Lyon believes the written word complements the photography unlike a few of his notable contemporaries. Lyon walks the line between fine art and documentation with an indelible influence, a result of his cognizant mindset, intentional approach and his strong moral compass embedded within him and his work.
Danny Lyon: Message to the Future is organized by Julian Cox, Founding Curator of Photography for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) and Chief Curator at the de Young Museum. The installation at the Whitney Museum is overseen by Elisabeth Sussman, Curator and Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography. The exhibition is on view at the Whitney from June 17 through September 25, 2016.
Images © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Article © Malcolm D. Anderson