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Writing in the volume of photographs from which this exhibition takes its title, art historian Justin Spring notes: “John Jonas Gruen has made it his business to be in the right place at the right time. During his many years in Manhattan, Gruen—critic, author, and keen cultural observer—has moved with ease among dancers, musicians, playwrights, and poets. He seems, however, to have reserved a special interest in painters and sculptors. Through the years, Gruen has managed to capture many of them in his photographs. As a result, he has assembled a vast collection of portraits that cumulatively describe the artistic community of late twentieth-century New York.”
The Whitney Museum of American Art is fortunate to be the repository for hundreds of Gruen’s portraits of artists. In his fabled life, which he has described most recently in his autobiography Callas Kissed Me…Lenny, Too! A Critic’s Memoir (powerHouse Books, 2008), Gruen (b. 1926) tells the story of how he came to aim his camera at many of the most noted artists of the past fifty years, including Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Yoko Ono, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Marisol, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. A tireless chronicler of his time in both word and image, Gruen continues to write and take photographs. He lives in New York with his wife, the painter Jane Wilson.
This exhibition is organized by Elisabeth Sussman, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography.