Exhibition Review: Women - Scott Nichols Gallery

Exhibition Review: Women - Scott Nichols Gallery

©Dorothea Lange,  Mrs. Paul Jones, A Professional Dancer , 1920s

©Dorothea Lange, Mrs. Paul Jones, A Professional Dancer, 1920s

By Leah Pfenning

The Scott Nichols Gallery in San Francisco presents, Women, an exhibition spotlighting the work of female photographers, spanning from 1909 through 2017. Women features selections from 29 different photographers, including Dorthea Lange, Margo Davis, Imogen Cunningham, Doris Ulman, Mona Kuhn and many others. The works exclusively feature women and are predominantly portraits. There is a sweeping range of photographic styles featured in the exhibition, from vintage gelatin silver prints, to platinum prints, to the more contemporary work in chromogenic prints.

©Dorothea Lange,  Portrait of a Young Girl and Woman , 1929

©Dorothea Lange, Portrait of a Young Girl and Woman, 1929

The gallery took care to reserve a separate wall to display the work of male photographers photographing women. The wall dedicated to the male photographers includes works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, George Tice and Wynn Bullock, among others. The intention was an attempt to highlight the overt differences between a man photographing women and a woman photographing women. The breadth of time covered in the exhibition is vast, and beside the inherent theme of women, and the isolated section of male photographers for contrast, the question of artistic commentary is beckoned.

©Margo Davis,  Carrying Home Mangoes , 1970

©Margo Davis, Carrying Home Mangoes, 1970

The exhibition has a strong retrospective air to it, but the style of the work does not maintain a consistent evolution from the vintage to the contemporary. The discrepancies among the pieces are subtle for the layperson, but the curated works are complex. Style, tone and intention wax and wane throughout the selections, the balance between lingering over a single photograph and taking in the exhibition as a whole is part of the challenge. The ebb and flow of the works produce a natural and familiar rhythm, almost mimicking the natural cycle of a woman. The repetition of style creates a sense of unity - women as an entity, timeless, complex and ever-metamorphosing.

Women challenges you to alter your approach as a viewer. As the eponymous exhibition seeks to emulate women, the experience of the viewer will fluctuate dramatically depending on the way in which the gallery is navigated. Linger a while, then step back and take it all in. Each woman holds a truth, but the concatenation of the photographs builds a fuller picture of what it is to be woman. 

©Judy Dater,  Twinka with Lace Curtains , 1970

©Judy Dater, Twinka with Lace Curtains, 1970

©Anne Brigman,  Sanctuary , 1921

©Anne Brigman, Sanctuary, 1921

©Margo Davis,  Ladi, Fulani Girl , Nigeria, 1981

©Margo Davis, Ladi, Fulani Girl, Nigeria, 1981

September 16 – November 4

49 Geary Street, Fourth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94108

© 2017 Scott Nichols Gallery/Respective Artists

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