Vivian Maier / 1956 © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery
Mostly known for her black and white photography, Vivian Maier is an icon in American street photography. A genre mainly dominated by photographers such as Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz and Lee Friedlander. Maier’s observant eye as an unknown outsider and as a woman makes her work a significant addition to the canon of photography. This exhibition at Foam focuses on a lesser-known aspect of her work: over 60 color photographs from the period between 1956 – 1986.
Works in Color shows street scenes in Chicago, – the city where Maier lived for much of her life – featuring people, objects, billboards and shop windows. Her work in color seems altogether playful and tongue in cheek.
Vivian Maier / Untitled, n.d.
Vivian Maier / Untitled, 1960
Vivian Maier / Chicago, 1978
Vivian Maier / Chicago, April 1977
Vivian Maier / Self-portrait, Chicago area, June 1975
Vivian Maier / Chicago, 1979
Vivian Maier / New York City, 1959
The exhibition references the publication of Vivian Maier: The Color Work (Harper Design | HarperCollins, November 2018) the first book devoted to her color images. With a foreword by renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz and text by Colin Westerbeck, a former curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, the book was created in partnership with Howard Greenberg Gallery.
Vivian Maier / Chicago, February 1976
Vivian Maier, Untitled, n.d. / Chicago, n.d.
Vivian Maier / Chicago, October 1976
“Maier was an early poet of color photography,” writes Joel Meyerowitz in the foreword to the book. “You can see in her photographs that she was a quick study of human behavior, of the unfolding moment, the flash of a gesture, or the mood of a facial expression – brief events that turned the quotidian life of the street into a revelation for her.”
Since 2010, Maier’s photographs have been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. The 2013 documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, co-directed by historian John Maloof (who discovered her work at an auction in Chicago in 2007), was nominated for an Academy Award.
Vivian Maier / Self-portrait, Chicago area, October 1975
Vivian Maier, Untitled, n.d. / Untitled, 1972
Vivian Maier / Self-portrait, Chicago, June 1976
Vivian Maier (1926–2009) was born in New York City, spent much of her youth in France, worked for 40 years as a nanny mostly in Chicago, and photographed consistently over five decades. When she died, Maier left behind more than 150,000 photographic images – prints, negatives, transparencies, and rolls of undeveloped film – though few had ever heard about or seen her work. Maier’s color work was made during her last 30 years. After retiring her signature Rolleiflex, she began working with a 35-millimeter camera and produced roughly 40,000 Ektachrome color slides.
“Maier was a self-invented polymath of a photographer,” writes Colin Westerbeck in the book. “The one advantage Maier gained from keeping her photography to herself was an exemption from contradiction and condescension. She didn’t have to worry about either the orthodoxy or the approval of her peers.”
This exhibition is made possible in collaboration with the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.