Booth C3, Features
Hamiltons presented an exhibition of early, rare work by Irving Penn, one of the most esteemed and influential photographers of the twentieth century. Captured in the late 1930s and early 1940s in New York and the American South, Penn’s photographs of signs are a rare instance of work made outside the studio.
In some of his earliest forays with a camera, Irving Penn took careful notice of handmade signs. In them, he saw personal expressions of a merchant’s hope for more business, a preacher’s longing for a congregation, a myriad of ways in which to catch the eyes of passers-by. The variety and combination of words and symbols might have appealed to the young Penn as a form of commercial ‘portraiture’, each a reflection of its owner-creator.
In 2017, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented ‘Irving Penn: Centennial’, an exhibition now travelling internationally. The show includes early works from the 1930s, a series of photographs of storefronts, hanging signs, and shadows in the urban landscape. They reveal Penn’s interest in documenting American reality, beautiful or not – a perspective highlighted in this presentation of a rarely seen group of works.