Undisguised Encounters

Undisguised Encounters

Notions of identity were challenged and redefined in the 20th century. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, recognises the contribution of image making to this history by bringing together three influential practitioners. Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin tracks the development of social documentary photography through significant books: Brassaï’s (b. 1899) The Secret Paris of the 30’s (1976), Diane Arbus’ (b. 1923) posthumous Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (1972) and Nan Goldin’s (b. 1953) The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986).

The featured image is taken from Goldin’s raw and intimate body of work, which documents the social lives of the artist and her community. Created during the 1970s and 1980s in Boston, New York and Berlin, the series acts as a public diary, recording the spaces and places that define the experience of friends and lovers. The collection presents the practitioner’s New York City apartment in dialogue with cheap hotels, bars and nightclubs, painting a portrait of Goldin’s quotidian and questioning the nature of desire.

Arbus’ contribution also confronts the everyday, capturing a diverse range of individuals at banal moments. The selection – taken in the 1960s and early 1970s – features those often marginalised by society. By reinventing the boundaries of the medium and ideas of self-definition, the series reveals the vulnerability of those positioned on both sides of the camera. In a similar way, Brassaï’s earlier work uncovers the unexpected events taking place “behind the facades” of Paris’s nightlife in the 1930s. The photobook chronicles the city’s exuberant clubs and underground brothels, preserving a nocturnal world on the verge of disappearance.

From 4 March. Find out more: www.moca.org.

1. Nan Goldin, Picnic on the Esplanade, Boston, 1973, cibachrome print, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm), courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Nimoy Family Foundation.