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New York, N. Why?.
Photographs by Rudy Burckhardt.
Nazraeli Press, Portland, 2008. 52 pp., 67 duotone illustrations., 12
Selected as one of the
Best Books of 2009
Lesley A. Martin
This remarkable album is a collaboration between Rudy Burckhardt, one of the great New York photographers of the 1930s and ’40s, and his companion and lifelong friend, the poet and dance critic Edwin Denby. Previously unpublished, and reproduced here in facsimile, New York, N. Why? is a unique, handmade book containing 67 photographs and seven sonnets. Now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, it contains many of Burckhardt’s best-known images, dazzlingly sequenced into three urban themes – advertising, pedestrians, and street furniture. The photographer and poet met in Basel, Switzerland in 1934 and moved the following year to New York. There, the Burckhardt instinctively sought out what others overlooked – the abstract modernist tableaux of fire hydrants, standpipes, cornices, and columns; the readymade collage of newsstands and storefronts; and the complex choreography of pedestrians darting and weaving through crowded intersections. An accompanying essay by Doug Eklund, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan, examines the album in relation to Burckhardt’s contemporaneous films, Denby’s pioneering writing on dance from the same moment, and the origins of the New York School in painting, photography, and poetry.
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