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Idiot Box

May 14 - June 25, 2005
521 W 21 Street

Press Release

Matthew Marks is pleased to announce Weegee: Idiot Box, the next exhibition at his gallery at 521 West 21st Street.

Weegee (1899-1968) became famous for the documentary images of New York City he made prior to 1945, though little of the work he made in the last two decades of his life has received significant critical attention. This exhibition follows the gallery's 2000 exhibition of Weegee distortions and is a further investigation of Weegee's lesser-known later work.

The exhibition will include nine vintage black & white photographs the artist shot of a television screen around 1965. It will also include the short film Idiot Box, in which all nine photographs appear as stills. These photographs depict station logos for CBS and NBC; the labor leader Michael J. Quill being interviewed; and the title frame of various shows, including What's My Line, The Ed Sullivan Show, and Candid Camera.

Weegee's film Idiot Box is a five-minute montage of still and moving images with a wide variety of subjects, including advertisements for aspirin and brassieres, a poster soliciting donors for a sperm bank, a group of rowdy chimpanzees, the Empire State Building, and a prisoner strapped into an electric chair. As with much of Weegee's later photography, many of the images in the film are distorted using lenses of his own invention. In the film, Weegee's distortions come to life: the Leaning Tower of Pisa undulates, nude women with multiple breasts lounge about, and the Mona Lisa smiles and winks at the viewer. The photographs included in the exhibition appear interspersed throughout the film.

The phrase "idiot box" was coined in 1959, and by 1965 over 92% of American households had at least one television. Weegee's familiarity with this phenomenon, coupled with his prescient use of Pop imagery, gives these works lasting significance. Weegee, working in a medium that was barely considered art, received virtually no recognition for this kind of experimental work, to which he devoted most of his energies throughout the 1950s and 1960s. When he died, in 1968, the artist was living in a single room on West 47th Street.

Weegee: Idiot Box will be on view at the Matthew Marks Gallery at 521 West 21st Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues) through June 25, 2005.
Hours: Thursday and Friday, 1:00 to 6:00 P.M., and Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M..

For further information or reproductions please contact Sabrina Buell at 212-243-0200.

Additional Information