Gitterman Gallery is proud to present an exhibition of vintage black and white photographs by Gita
Lenz. The exhibition will open with a reception and book release on Wednesday, September 23rd
from 6 to 8 p.m. and continue through Saturday, November 20th.
From the 1940s to the early 1960s, Gita Lenz (b. 1910) created a body of work that withstands
comparison to many of the better-known photographers of the time. Aaron Siskind was both a
friend and strong influence. Like Siskind, who started out as a social documentarian and member
of the Photo League in New York, Lenzs work ranges from the humanist to the abstract. She
spent much of her time making images of the people and the city around her. Also, like Siskind,
Lenz explored abstraction, both in nature and in the urban environment, frequently making
complex and beautiful images of mundane and dilapidated subjects. Some images are tender,
demonstrating a sense of empathy and respect, and others are dynamic, suggesting a modernist
and sometimes surreal perspective.
Gita Lenz moved to an apartment at the corner of Carmine Street and 7th Avenue in 1940. Soon
after, Lenz began photographing infrequently and informally, but by the 1950s she was working
professionally and receiving recognition.
In 1951, following the seminal exhibition Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America at the
Museum of Modern Art, Edward Steichen curated the exhibition Abstraction in Photography,
included Lenzs work alongside work by Erwin Blumenfeld, Josef Breitenbach, Alexey
Brodovitch, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ralston Crawford, Walker Evans, Lotte Jacobi,
György Kepes, László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, Arthur Siegel, Aaron Siskind,
Frederick Sommer, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Edward Weston. For Steichen, the exhibition
was meant as a response to the sensitive reportorial photography of the period and featured
the work of photographers concerned with evolving another reality by probing into the realm of
the abstract. The first major exhibition of Lenzs work was in a three-person show, The
Eye with John Reed and Don Normark, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1952. Soon after, in 1955,
Edward Steichen included her work in another exhibition at the MoMA, this time in the landmark
exhibition, The Family of Man.
Lenz pursued commercial and fine art photography into the early 1960s until her financial situation
required her to seek a steadier income. She did, however, continue with other creative pursuits,
chiefly creative writing and poetry.
When the reality of living alone in her fifth floor walkup on Carmine Street became too
impractical, Timothy Bartling, who was her neighbor and had become her friend, helped Lenz
move into an assisted living facility near her old neighborhood and manage her personal
affairs. Bartling elicited the expertise of his friend the photographer Gordon Stettinius to
archive Lenzs work. It was the depth and quality of Lenzs work that inspired Stettinius
found Candela Books and make Lenzs work the subject of its first publication. Because Lenzs
memory has been fading in recent years, it is due to the efforts of Bartling and Stettinius
that we now know of her work and a little of the life she led.
Links open PDF files (get Acrobat
The New Yorker
& White Photography