[ Museum of Contemporary Art ]




LOS ANGELES - The 5ocial Scene, featuring selections from The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection at MOCA, is composed of more than 300 photographs made between the 1930s and 1980s by major artists working within the documentary tradition. The exhibition opens June 4, 2000 and remains on view through August 20, 2000. Historically significant portfolios by Diane Arbus, Brassaï, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, Danny Lyon, Roger Mertin, John Pfahl, and Garry Winogrand will be on view.


Organized by MOCA associate curator Connie Butler, the exhibition is arranged thematically into six areas: American Icons-Ideas and Issues, Character Studies, Loss of Innocence, Natural Occurrences, Picture-Making, and Social Space.
The work of Diane Arbus offers a glimpse of communities and ways of life that are often shielded from the mainstream eye; her intimate portraits are selected from her posthumous untitled monograph. Brassaï also turned his camera to alternative subjects in his book The Secret Paris' of the 1930s, photographing the performers, street cleaners, fortune-tellers, and prostitutes who gathered after-hours in cafe's and bars throughout Paris. Selections from Helen Levitt's A Way of Seeing showcase her New York street photography during the 1940s and l9SOs, which inspired future generations of photographers to choose the outdoor urban environment as their preferred backdrop.


Granted a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955, Robert Frank traveled across the United States by car and photographed postwar American culture. All of Frank's photographs in the exhibition were taken during this cross-country trip and later published in The Americans (1959), with a preface by Jack Kerouac. The work of Lee Friedlander represents a style in which the formal arrangement of the photograph contains the meaning of the image. From Factory Valleys to The Amedcan Monument Friedlander's ironic placement of objects and people reveals uncanny truisms through humorous juxtapositions. Garry Winogrand captured a wide range of subjects-from high-society art openings to working-class women strolling down Fifth Avenue-in Publlc Relations and Women Are Beautiful In many images, Winogrand used a wide-angle lens and casual framing, which often mocked these situations.


Danny Lyon's projects investigate social groups and their surroundings by infiltrating the group and photographing it from within. His book Conversations with the Dead investigates incarceration in six Texas prisons, and The Bikeriders probes the life of motorcycle racers and riders. Roger Mertin's gray-scale images of houses, garages, basketball hoops, and winter trees employ a scientific approach appropriate to the book's title, Records. Stylistically akin in his reductive formal vocabulary to a new wave of documentary photographers of the mid-1970s, Mertin exemplifies a transition point in photography. John Pfahl chooses the contemporary landscape and its unnatural inhabitants as the focus of his photographic investigations. In the color portfolios Power Plants and Arcadia Revisited, nuclear reactors and oil rigs loom on the horizon.


In 1994, MOCA acquired 2,300 photographs from which this thematic selection was drawn. The collection was assembled by Robert Freidus, a New York dealer and collector who represented or worked extensively with several of these artists in the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, including Clark, Friedlander and Winogrand. The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Photography Collection was named for The Foundation, which funded the purchase of the collection in 1995.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue1 The Social Scene, published by MOCA. This fully illustrated 165-page catalogue features texts by Emily Apter, chair of the department of comparative literature at UCLA; MOCA associate curator Connie Butler; A. D. Coleman, photography historian and critic; Liz Kotz, Los Angeles-based writer and critic; and Max Kozloff, photographer and critic


Exhibition Tour

Following its presentation at MOCA, the exhibition will travel to the Palm Beach Institute of
Contemporary Art (October 7 to December 30, 2000).