Aaron Siskind: Abstract Expressionist Photographer

Saturday, March 23 - Sunday, June 23, 2013


Aaron Siskind (1903 – 1991) was born in New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. After receiving his Bachelor of Social Science degree in Literature from College of the City of New York in 1926, Siskind taught high school English for 21 years in the New York public school system. His first loves were music and poetry, but he took an interest in photography in 1930 when he received a camera as a wedding gift. Siskind was still teaching in the public schools when he joined the New York Photo League, with whom he produced several significant socially-conscious series of images in the 1930s. The Harlem Document remains his best known body of work from this period.

Siskind’s later photography focused on the details of nature and architecture, treating them as flat surfaces to create images which, he claimed, were independent of the original subject. Much of Siskind’s pioneering photography from this period has ties to the work done by the Abstract Expressionist painters at the same time. One of Siskind’s close friends was the painter Franz Kline, to whom Siskind created a series of photographs titled Homage to Franz Kline after the painter’s death in 1962.

While teaching at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1951, Siskind met fellow faculty member and photographer Harry Callahan. Callahan persuaded Siskind to join him as part of the faculty of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago in 1951. Siskind took over as head of the photography program when Callahan left in 1961. In 1971 Siskind left the Institute of Design and again followed Callahan to the Rhode Island School of Design where he continued to teach until his retirement in 1976.

This exhibition was organized by the Asheville Art Museum with support from the f/32 Photography Group. Lenders to the exhibition include the Aaron Siskind Foundation, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York City, Lumière Gallery, Atlanta, GA and Robert Mann Gallery, New York City.

View selected works in the exhibition »