Helen Levitt

Five Decades

Featuring vintage prints from the James Agee family collection

November 8 – December 22, 2018

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

". . . in their relative postures, and attitudes toward their
masks, the three children . . . are a definitive embodiment
of the first walk into the world's first morning."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1940

New York City, circa 1940

"It is luck, if you like, that turned [this] warlike frieze into a
wonderful dance, and gave it its strange frame of electrical
wiring."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942

". . . an image of the gentle elegance possible, in the age
that can still survive it whole, to prepropogative love."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1940

New York City, circa 1940

"Is it not . . . likely, when you look with care at the respective
postures and ages of the people . . . that surreptitiously,
unknown even to the performers, though in broad daylight,
human beings and their streets continually evolve some of
their most unutterable meanings, as a dance?"

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942

"The boys . . . , treed and at home in their jungle's stony
shade, touch the drumhead of this world's mystery
beyond the touch of words."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1939

New York City, circa 1939

"Dancing, indeed, is implicit in nearly all that they do - as in. . . the centrifugal, fire-dance fury of [this picture]"

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

 

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1942

New York City, circa 1942

"There is the warmest and deepest kind of delight, and the
only answer to age save those beyond this world, in the
portrait of the men with the baby. I feel it is endearing
beyond talking of, and beyond tears."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1939

New York City, circa 1939

"In its pathetic, relatively rational verbosity, moreover, it
marks a difference wider than that of race with the
prodigious image of anguish and consolation."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

"We begin not with the creatures of this civilization, but with
their hieroglyphs, their rock drawings, their cave paintings."

-James Agee, a Way of Seeing

New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

"The intuitions of a child with chalk have so utilized a
stamped tin wreath as to create a female head which could
also be an image of the sun or the moon; and, as a magnet
beneath paper aligns a scatter of iron filings, it commands
every disparate element within the frame of the photograph
into a grandly unified, cryptic significance."

-James Agee, A Way of Seeing

Helen Levitt, James Agee, 1945

James Agee, 1945

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1940

New York City, circa 1940

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1942

New York City, circa 1942

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1940

New York City, 1940

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942

New York City, circa 1942

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942,

New York City, 1942

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942

Helen Levitt New York City 1938

New York City, 1938

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1940

New York City, circa 1940

Helen Levitt New York City (First Communion), 1945

New York City (First Communion), 1945

Helen Levitt New York City 1939

New York City 1939

Helen Levitt New York City, 1937

New York City, 1937

Helen Levitt, James Agee with Delmore Schwartz, Frenchtown, NJ 1939

James Agee with Delmore Schwartz, Frenchtown, NJ, 1939

Helen Levitt, James and Mia Agee, 1942

James and Mia Agee, 1942
 

Helen Levitt James Agee, 1945

James Agee, 1945

Helen Levitt James Agee, 1945

James Agee, 1945

Helen Levitt James Agee 1945

James Agee 1945

Helen Levitt James and Mia Agee, 1945

James and Mia Agee, 1945

Helen Levitt, James Agee, 1945

James Agee, 1945

Helen Levitt, Mexico City, 1941

Mexico City, 1941

Helen Levitt Mexico City, 1941

Mexico City, 1941

Helen Levitt, Mexico City, 1941

Mexico City, 1941

Helen Levitt, Mexico City, 1941

Mexico City, 1941

Helen Levitt, Mexico City, 1941

Mexico City, 1941

Helen Levitt, Mexico City, 1941

New York City, circa 1939

Helen Levitt New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1940

New York City, circa 1939

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1939

New York City, circa 1939

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1939

New York City, circa 1939

Helen Levitt New York City, circa 1939

New York City, circa 1939

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

New York City, 1939

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942
(from a group of nine)

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942
(from a group of nine)

Helen Levitt New York City, 1942

New York City, 1942
(from a group of nine)

Helen Levitt, New York City, circa 1942

New York City, circa 1942

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1984

New York City, 1984

Helen Levitt New York City, 1959

New York City, 1959

Helen Levitt New York City, 1971

New York City, 1971

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1971

New York City, 1971

New York City, 1972

New York City, 1972

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1972

New York City, 1972

Helen Levitt

New York City, 1972

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1972

New York City, 1972

Helen Levitt New York City, 1990s

New York City, 1990s

Press Release

Laurence Miller Gallery is pleased to present HELEN LEVITT: FIVE DECADES, featuring vintage prints gifted by Levitt to James Agee and his family between 1940 and ca. 2000. These include several of Levitt’s most famous New York images, pictures from Mexico City, and never before exhibited portraits of James Agee. 

Helen first met James Agee at Walker Evans' apartment in New York City in 1938, and the two formed a deep friendship. Helen later traveled to Mexico City with Agee's then wife, Alma, and her son.  Several of her Mexican images were later reproduced in HELEN LEVITT: MEXICO CITY, published in 1997.  

James Agee was an early collaborator with Levitt, and in 1946 he authored an essay on her photographs that served as the introduction to her book A WAY OF SEEING. He wrote “At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work I know.” Agee also provided individual comments on many of the images in the book, which will be displayed with the corresponding images in the show.

It was while writing the essay that the idea of making a film together arose. The result was the film In the Street, released in 1952, scripted by Agee and filmed by Levitt and Janice Loeb. The gallery will show the film continuously during the exhibition.

The Agee family material will be supplemented by other works on loan to the gallery, as well as prints from the gallery’s own collection, including several of Levitt’s later dye-transfer color prints, large-scale murals of children’s graffiti, and a series of Helen’s very intimate first prints

 

 

Helen Levitt’s work is now on view in two major museum shows. The ALBERTINA MUSEUM in Vienna currently has a major retrospective of her work, featuring approximately 130 images, from October 12th through January 27, 2019. And the TELFAIR MUSEUMS in Savannah Georgia, have included her in their exhibition The Language of Vision: Early Twentieth Century Photography, with work by four artists, now through January 13, 2019.