Aaron Siskind - Photographs New York Monday, July 13, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    LIGHT, New York
    Private Collection, Miami

  • Literature

    powerHouse Books, Aaron Siskind 100, n.p.

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Almost inevitably there are tensions in the picture, tensions between the outside world and the inside world. . . For me, a successful picture resolves these tensions without eliminating them.” – Aaron Siskind

    By the 1940s, Aaron Siskind’s concentration on social documentary photography had progressed to an increasingly abstract style, and he gained acceptance within the circle of New York painters that came to be known as the Abstract Expressionists. Yet Siskind’s work, by his own account, was always concerned with the reality in front of his camera, no matter how abstracted the image. He wrote: ‘The business of making a photograph may be said in simple terms to consist of three elements: the objective world (whose permanent condition is change and disorder), the sheet of paper on which the picture is realized, and the experience which brings them together. First, and emphatically, I accept the flat plane of the picture surface as the primary frame of reference of the picture’ (‘Credo,’ Spectrum, 1956, Vol. 6, No. 2).

    Shortly after moving to Chicago in 1951 to teach at the Institute of Design, Siskind embarked upon a series of photographs unlike others in his body of work. Photographing against a bright sky, he captured divers in mid-air before they plunged into the water along the Chicago lakefront. The images are devoid of situational context or horizon line, and their subjects seem to float exuberantly in space. Siskind called the series Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation (or, alternatively, Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation). While depicting the human figure, these photographs transcend documentation to become expressive studies in form and movement.

    Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation was published in 1972 by the pioneering New York gallery, LIGHT, where this portfolio was purchased. Released in a small edition of 15, its appearance at auction is rare.


Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation

New York: LIGHT, 1972.
Ten gelatin silver prints, nine mounted.

Each approximately 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (24.1 x 24.1 cm)
Eight prints signed in pencil on the mount with printed portfolio labels on the reverse of the mount; one print signed and titled in ink on the reverse of the mount; one print signed, titled and dated in ink in the margin. Numbered 7 in ink on the colophon. Accompanied by the linen portfolio and silver-stamped slipcase. Number 7 from an edition of 15.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $81,250

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New York Auction 13 July 2020