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June 3 - July 28, 2000
523 W 24 Street

Press Release

Matthew Marks is pleased to announce the exhibition Weegee: Distortions in his gallery at 523 West 24th Street. This is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to Weegee's "distortion" photographs.

Arthur Fellig (1899-1968), known as Weegee, began work as a freelance photojournalist for New York tabloids in 1935. A decade later, he became famous after the publication of his first book, Naked City. His images of car crashes, murder scenes, and life in the streets of the city are widely known and enormously influential. Less well known, however, is the work to which he devoted the last twenty years of his life, what he called "his 'distortions', 'creative photography', or most often his 'art'."

In 1945, Weegee ceased work as a photojournalist. He moved to Hollywood in 1947 where he stayed for five years. It was here that he made his first distortions. He experimented with "placing a textured or curved glass or other translucent material between the enlarger lens and the photographic paper. This effect would alter the image of the negative to varying degrees depending on the density, pattern, or texture of the material used. He also tried manipulating or mutilating copy negatives by placing them in boiling water, or melting them with an open flame." He made "multiple exposures from the same or various negatives, moving the same piece of photographic paper after each exposure." He invented "a system by which he would affix a kaleidoscope to the end of the camera lens, or use it to replace the camera lens, letting the refractive designs multiply what the camera would have ordinarily recorded as a single image." Weegee had an extraordinary command of darkroom printing and would often combine one or more of these techniques to create his distortions. (Quotes from Weegee's World by Miles Barth).

The wide-ranging subjects of Weegee's distortions reflect both his sense of humanity and his great wit. They include Nixon, Mao, Castro, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, the Mona Lisa, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Coney Island, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the circus, the streets of New York and numerous self-portraits.

Although he spent two-thirds of his working life making distortions and published two books of them (Weegee's Creative Camera in 1959 and Weegee's Creative Photography in 1964), Weegee received virtually no encouragement for this work from the "serious" photography or art world which, to this day, has continued to embrace only his earlier "straight" photography. Despite this lack of support, Weegee produced a complex and compelling body of work in the last twenty years of his life. The photographs in this exhibition, assembled over many years, cement Weegee's position as one of the unique figures in 20th century art.

Weegee: Distortions will be on view at the Matthew Marks Gallery, 523 West 24th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues) through July 28, 2000. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 to 6:00pm, though June 30, and Monday through Friday from July 5 to July 28.

For further information or photographs please contact Jeffrey Peabody at (212) 243-0200.

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