Photography | Ray K Metzker in Contrast

Early Philadelphia, 1962

Ray K Metzker:
Black & Light
Howard Greenberg Gallery
New York City | USA
> 2 March 2019

Chicago – Loop, 1958

If there’s a spectral force lurking at the point where darkness and light bang up against one another, Ray K Metzker (1931 > 2014) captured it with his camera, bottled it and used it sparingly to imbue his starkly contrasty images with powerful sculptural form and tantalising depth.

But there was nothing ethereal about his approach. A pragmatist, who was intent on conveying the complex realities of modern, urban life, Metzker met his subject matter head-on, creating virtuoso compositions in which architecture, objects and the human form are afforded parity.

City Whispers, 1982

Pictus Interruptus, 1979

Early Philadelphia, 1963

Metzker studied photography in the late 1950s at Chicago’s Institute of Design under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. When he began his career as a photographer, he rejected abstract expressionism and its preoccupation with feelings, which had dominated art in America for more than a decade, and embraced the objectivity of the emergent minimal art.

Innovative and experimental, in his later work, Metzker created images from assemblages of printed film strips; he cropped and collaged details of his own photographs to create unique and powerful new images, and he waved flimsy pieces of paper in front of his camera lens to produce random effects.

Early Philadelphia, 1969

Metzker had his first solo exhibition at MoMA in 1967. During his 60-year career as a photographer, he had more than 50 solo exhibitions at major museums around the world.

Ray K Metzker: Black & Light at Howard Greenberg Gallery features the photographer’s early street photography from Chicago in the 1950s and Philadelphia in the 1960s. It also includes images from his 1960 > 61 European excursion, photographs from the series Pictus Interruptus from 1976 >1980, from his early 1980s series City Whispers, as well as examples of his collage series Whimsy and Arrestation.

All photographs © Estate of Ray K Metzker, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. All prints are gelatin silver prints

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