"Vivian Maier: Photographer" at Russell Bowman Art Advisory | Art review
The late Chicago street photographer gets a second show.
So much hoopla attended the revelation of Chicago nanny Vivian Maier’s (1926–2009) secret life as a talented photographer that it’s easy to forget more than one stash of her work exists.
The Maier show that the Chicago Cultural Center hosted earlier this year was drawn from John Maloof’s cache; the story of how he stumbled upon Maier’s work has become part of the photographer’s legend. Local artist Jeffrey Goldstein’s smaller Maier trove remained more obscure—until it furnished this exhibition.
“Vivian Maier, Photographer” shares several themes with the Chicago Cultural Center’s “Finding Vivian Maier,” most notably the artist’s interest in distinctive characters from all walks of life. Her portraits give the homeless and Maxwell Street Market shoppers as much dignity as the well-heeled elderly women who stare, affronted, at the camera.
The artist’s unique rapport with children again yields some of her best images. One 1955 photo reveals her eye for amusing details: A baby brandishes a doll whose creepy eyes slew toward the ground, as though it has a mind of its own. (Don’t miss the shadow of Maier’s signature hat in Untitled (Woman and Baby at Beach), pictured above.)
The primary difference is this show’s profusion of vintage prints, shot in early 1950s New York. “Vivian Maier, Photographer” gives us little new information about its enigmatic subject—an analysis of her work in relation to other street photographers’ would help—but fans will enjoy getting a second fix.