ART KANE


ART KANE

Art Kane (1925-1995) was among the twentieth century's true masters of photographic image-making. Kane was a bold visionary, an aesthete with a particularly American bent toward beauty that left an indelible impression and wrought remarkable influence over a host of successors in his field. In a career that spanned nearly fifty years, first as an art director and later as a photographer, Kane explored a number of genres - fashion, editorial, celebrity portraiture, and nudes--doing so with a crisp and deliberate approach that is unwavering for its constancy of form and innovation. Not unlike his contemporaries, Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton, Kane advanced a style in photography that was forward for its content-ahead of its time for its often strident coloration, and its unflinching play with eroticism and death, surreality and the iconic motifs that underscore American popular culture. In Kane's best work, the artist engages Eros and Thanatos, however often doing so with humor and clever juxtaposition. 

Art Kane's legacy is nothing if not original. He was a photographer's photographer, a consummately creative force that was always seeking to stretch his limits and to forge an individualist's path in photographic expression. Kane's formative experience in the magazine world was no less prescient and precise - it foretold in many ways the direction Kane would go with the camera. At age twenty-five, Kane started his career designing page layouts at "Esquire"  magazine. At age twenty-seven, he was named art director of "Seventeen" magazine, the youngest art director at any major magazine in New York City. And although he would be awarded no less than fourteen medals and twenty-four awards of distinctive merit from the Art Director's Club of New York, Kane was decisive about his desire to make photographs. In the late 1950s, he became a protegee of legendary art director and photographer, Alexey Brodovitch - whose influence on the careers of legions of important photographers is today well known, notably Richard Avedon, Hiro, and Irving Penn. Kane, was soon known as a leading imagemaker in the heady and sometimes over-the-top milieu of New York photographers in the postwar period. He was doubtless a part of the new generation that included Bourdin, Newton, Avedon and Penn, eagerly taking the reigns from such predecessors as Horst P. Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene and George Platt Lynes. 

In 1958, Kane assembled fifty-eight of the greatest legends in jazz in what was to become perhaps his most  recognized image. Harlem 1958 suggests the difficult and challenging assignments that Kane seemed to thrive upon, the intensity with which he both worked and conducted his personal life. Indeed, it was but a short time that the photographer became sought out as a master of the environmental portrait, especially images of leading recording artists of the time. In the 1960s and 1970s, Kane photographed, among numerous others, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Cream, Janis Joplin, The Doors and Bob Dylan. He trained his lens on actors, politicians, American common folk and the colorful characters that populate the urban streets of the city. While the battle for civil rights in America and the Vietnam war were both raging, Kane was simultaneously refining a conscientious expression - a response to the period - with his editorial work that, although quite rarefied, was powerfully accessible, populist in its desire to communicate to a large audience.  

Kane went on to contribute to the leading magazines of his era, including "Vogue" and "Harper's Bazaar". Perhaps his images of women leave Kane's greatest mark on photography with unforgettably arresting nudes as well as portraits of some of the most striking females of the time: Cheryl Tiegs, Ali McGraw, Beverly Sims, Lauren Hutton, Margaux Hemingway, Andie McDowell and Iman among numerous others.  

Art Kane was one of the most profoundly influential photographers to have emerged in postwar New York. His contributions to the medium of photography still resonate throughout the industry today. His work remains unmatched. 

- James Crump

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