Roy DeCarava: Light Break (Hardcover)

Roy DeCarava: Light Break Cover Image
By Roy DeCarava (By (artist)), Sherry Turner DeCarava (Text by), Zoé Whitley (Preface by)
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Light Break presents the first survey since 1996 of photographer Roy DeCarava, an essential figure of American art and culture, whose “poetry of vision” re-forms urban life, labor, love, and jazz into the discovery of “an intimate, emotional arc of transformation.”

Though DeCarava often refrained from public discussion of his work, this catalogue provides important background into determining factors of his aesthetic sensibility—his traditional training in painting and printmaking as well as his philosophical undertakings. It brings the viewer to a consideration of contradictory precepts in DeCarava’s work that seeks resolution through tonal and structural elements within the image.

Light Break presents a wide-ranging selection of DeCarava’s photographs accompanied by a preface by Zoé Whitley, an American curator based in London, and features an introduction and essay by curator and art historian Sherry Turner DeCarava. Titled “Celebration,” Turner DeCarava’s essay considers the artist’s singular poetic vision, his timeless portrayals of individuals and places, and his mastery of composition and photographic printmaking.

“In making photographs, as in life, DeCarava was patient. Possessing both a peerless self-awareness and acute observational skills, he knew intuitively when to wait and when to open the camera’s shutter. In the dark room, he availed himself of these same attributes, moving with steady assurance to develop his prints so as to allow the full range of what he called his “infinite scale of grey tones”—often realized at the deepest end of the spectrum—to emerge slowly and fully.”

This exquisite volume showcases a dynamic range of images that underscore DeCarava’s subtle mastery of tonal and spatial elements across a wide, fascinating array of subject matter: from the figural implications of smoke and debris to the “shimmering mirror beneath a mother as she walks with her children in the morning light.” These photographs express a strength of imagery—an intent to synchronize and honor the pulse of art as an emergent signal for creative and revelatory freedom.

About the Author

Over the course of six decades, American artist Roy DeCarava (1919–2009) produced a singular collection of black-and-white photographs of modern life that combine formal acuity with an intimate and deeply human treatment of his subject matter. Grounded by a uni ed theory of the visual plane, his work displays a subtle mastery of tonal and spatial elements and devotion to the medium of photography as a means of artistic expression. DeCarava created images that carry an emotional impact in their immediate relationship to the viewer, while also revealing less-than-visible terrains. DeCarava’s pioneering work privileged the aesthetic qualities of the medium, carrying the ability to reach the viewer as a counterpoint to the view of photography as mere chronicle or document and helping it to gain acceptance as an art form in its own right.

Sherry Turner DeCarava is an art historian, curator, and independent scholar in the fields of traditional arts and contemporary American photography. Serving as the executive director, the principal focus of her professional career has been the development of The DeCarava Archives, which supports exhibition and scholarly research projects related to the work of her late husband Roy DeCarava. She is the author of two de nitive texts on his photography, published in Roy DeCarava: Photographs (1981) and Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective (1996). In 2014, she initiated First Print Press, beginning a process to republish classic Roy DeCarava books, while bringing new photographic projects into print.

Zoé Whitley is senior curator at the Hayward Gallery in London, prior to which she was curator, International Art, at Tate Modern. In 2019, she curated the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and co-curated the acclaimed exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. Author of The Graphic World of Paul Peter Piech (2014) and children’s book Meet the Artist: Frank Bowling (2019), she has also authored exhibition catalogues, essays, and interviews on Grace Wales-Bonner, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lubaina Himid, Alexander McQueen, and Jack Whitten, among others. Zoé was named one of Apollo Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Thinkers in Europe, and one of ArtLyst’s 2017 100 Alternative Powerhouses in the not-for-profit contemporary art world.

Praise For…

“‘Light Break’ treats the full range of his interests, from the civil rights movement to images of urban workers, landscapes and parks… this is a museum-worthy undertaking.”
— Roberta Smith

Light Break is the first important survey of DeCarava's work since the MoMA retrospective Peter Galassi organized in 1996, and it feels even more momentous… the black-and-white reproductions here are superb – all the more important when so many of the book’s selections are new.”
— Vince Aletti

Light Break offers a wider perspective on the life and work of a singular, somewhat elusive 20th-century American photographer… This illuminating retrospective shows the full range of his work and the consistency of his vision.”
— Sean O’Hagan

“At once spare and elegant, the minimalist approach continues on the interior where the black-and-white photographs of Roy DeCarava take center stage. The array of images dating from 1948 to 2006 showcase his dexterity with light and shadow and commitment to printing techniques that produced a full spectrum of rich tonal grays.”
— Victoria L. Valentine

“DeCarava’s pictures of the scuffed modernist geometries of Manhattan streets and the faces of an American demimonde of singers, musicians and painters, anonymous passers-by, freedom marchers, men and women at diners or in banks or at the park, form an irresistible, mesmerizing portrait of a city and a country of mad contradiction and beauty.”
— Andrew Durbin

“Showstoppers abound—a few made me think that I needn’t look at photography anymore, the form having reached its pinnacle for all time to come.”
— Andy Battaglia

Product Details
ISBN: 9781644230251
ISBN-10: 1644230259
Publisher: David Zwirner Books
Publication Date: November 5th, 2019
Pages: 228
Language: English